Healing the earth, one yard at a time.
Honeybee on mountain mint at Wittenbach Wege Center. Photo by Rebecca Marquardt.

In this issue:
  • Featured Program September 21- Treasures of the Edible & Ecological Gardens and their Connections with our Native Ecosystem presented by Courtney Cheers, Director, Wittenbach Wege Center
  • A Tribute to Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray
  • Kent Conservation District Native Plant Sale (Pre-order)
  • Plan it Native Online Conference September 16–18
  • National Wild Ones Membership Annual Membership Meeting Online September 19
  • Heather Holm Free Webinar September 24
  • Ranger Steve's Nature Niche: Sensing Sequence and Succession
  • Wild Ones Digital Photo Contest
  • Natives to Know: Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans
  • M3 Monarch Migration Study
  • Native Plant Guild Sponsored Advertisement
  • Wild Ones River City Shop at CafePress
Photos by Rebecca Marquardt

11715 Vergenes St. SE, Lowell, MI 48331
Wittenbach Wege Center

September 21 • 6:30 pm

Treasures of the Edible & Ecological Gardens
and their Connections with our Native Ecosystem

Presented by Courtney Cheers, Director, Wittenbach Wege Center (WWC)

The program will be held outdoors.
PLEASE wear a mask and practice social distancing to protect yourself and others.

Courtney will provide a brief history of the Wittenbach Wege Center, the role of native plants and food production, the importance of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, and the role of native perennial crops in the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

Courtney Cheers loves helping people explore, discover, and get their hands in the soil—OUTSIDE! And she has been educating students and the community about the natural world and agriculture for nearly 20 years. Courtney has been involved in programming at the WWC since 2001 and has held the position of Director since 2014. She studied at Iowa State University and the University of Montana.

Some of the bounty from WWC Victory Garden that was donated to a food pantry in July.

Wittenbach Wege Center in Lowell

By Ginny Wanty, WORC Programs Committee Co-Chair

Mary Jane Dockeray, the Founder of Blandford Nature Center, a lifelong leader of environmental education and my personal mentor died peacefully on August 17th at the age of 93.

I'm not sure how to sum up all the positive and life changing effects Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray had on our West Michigan community but I’ll give it a try. Mary Jane inspired thousands of children and adults through her decades of enthusiastic style of teaching as well as her passion for nature. Mary Jane started her career as the Curator of Natural History at the Grand Rapids Public Museum; and opened the doors to Blandford Nature Center in 1968. Mary Jane was very involved with Audubon Society and YWCA, loved to travel, authored a number of books, won numerous awards; including the most recent the Inaugural Association of Nature Center Administrators' President's Award for Exemplary Leadership in the Nature and Environmental Learning Center Profession.

As the MSU Extension Master Naturalist Coordinator, I hired Mary Jane to be the Wildflower Instructor. I was SO blessed to have Mary Jane teach Master Naturalist participants about wildflowers for seven years as well as model for them what a difference one person can make in a community. The photo below was taken at one of those Master Naturalist wildflower walks.

In 2016, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan selected me to receive the Mary Jane Dockeray Award as someone who has made significant and lasting contributions to environmental education and conservation in West Michigan. It was such an honor to be recognized as well as receiving the award named after Mary Jane Dockeray. 

I had started my environmental journey by volunteering at Blandford in the 1970s. In fact, I became the first Summer intern that Mary Jane ever hired. During the LCWM award ceremony, I had asked Mary Jane if she wanted to say anything. She said “no”, and then proceeded to correct me all during my speech. Mary Jane was such a force of nature! I feel so very privileged and blessed that I had the opportunity to learn about nature from her as well as demonstrating how to make a difference in a community.

Now all of those that knew and learned from Mary Jane need to take up the torch and carry on her legacy. It is our turn to lead and make a difference! Now more than ever, we need to continue to work together to keep nature nearby in whatever way we can!

Editor's Note: Many members of Wild Ones River City Chapter knew and loved Mary Jane Dockeray. Mary Jane presented a program to Wild Ones titled "Michigan in 4 Geographic Stages" in November of 2016. She also led Wild Ones on a wildflower hike at Blandford Nature Center in May of 2012. Mary Jane attended many of our monthly programs over the years. She will be missed! 

Kent Conservation District

Thank you for your support of this important conservation fundraiser.

The sale features native wildflowers, grasses and trees.

Order via ORDER FORM or ONLINE today as pre-orders will close for the fall sale on September 25, 2020 so we have time to coordinate with our conservation district nurseries.

PICKUP Saturday, October 17th 9–5pm. 
Instructions for social distancing drive-thru. 

WORKSHOP – Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals. Enjoy a special ZOOM presentation from volunteer Marty MacCleery on Thursday, September 17th 7–8pm (Signup on Eventbrite and a zoom link will be emailed to you). Marty reawakened to her love of gardening while spending a decade in Wilmington, DE. She serves as the Education Committee Chair of Wild Ones River City Chapter.

PICKUP / PARKING: Browse and buy and pickup will be located at the corner of Leonard and Beltline: (just north of Meijer Gardens) following special guidelines. There are plenty of parking lots as it is a very large office complex.

QUESTIONS or office (616) 222-5801 or cell (248) 245-3977.

Online event presented by Deep Roots KC

Wednesday 9/16 • 1:00pm–5:00pm CDT
Thursday 9/17 • 1:00pm–5:00pm CDT
Friday 9/18 • 8:30am–12:30pm CDT

Can’t join us live? Recorded sessions are available for registered attendees for up to one year following the conference. 


Native landscapes are essential for a healthy planet. The 2020 Plan It Native Landscapes Conference, hosted by Deep Roots and its partners, will offer expert speakers and opportunities to connect with like-minded people. Sessions include inspiring case studies, information on best practices, and experts sharing technical know-how on a wide variety of topics.

This virtual event is far more than just a webinar! Join us for three half-days of in-depth sessions with regional and national experts. Between sessions, enjoy robust networking opportunities, stimulating roundtable discussions, and a buzzing virtual exhibit hall!

CEUs Available for ASLA. 

Saturday, September 19 • 10 am CST

Join us to celebrate Lorrie Otto’s 101 birthday! Meet the Wild Ones Board of Directors and staff. Preview the new professionally designed residential native garden plans funded by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust grant, and learn how Wild Ones is growing. We are asking members to send their birthday wishes in the Zoom chat box in honor of Lorrie’s birthday. Lorrie Otto was a Wild Ones Lifetime Honorary Director, and the founding inspiration for Wild Ones. She was a pioneer in the natural landscaping movement in the United States. 

To attend the Annual Meeting, email for your Zoom link.
Wild Ones Presents:

Thursday, September 24th at 7:30 pm EST

You are invited to hear Heather Holm, Biologist, and author of Bee: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide and Pollinators of Native Plants as she discusses fall yard care and how-to strategies to protect our native pollinators.

Register for the FREE webinar here: An evening with Honorary Director Heather Holm.


Sensing Sequence and Succession
By Ranger Steve Mueller
Sequence of flowers through the seasons brings new beauty to our eyes and nose with each passing week as spring progresses from brown duff to the laying of autumn leaves. The sequence fills our senses of sight and smell but delicate, rough, smooth, prickly, and wet adds the discovery of touch. One cannot avoid the desire to taste when finding wild strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Sounds change with the sequence of seasonal plant progression when wind moves through barren tree branches and those full of leaves.
A day lacking fulfillment occurs if we do not notice the sequence unfolding in yards, neighborhoods, parks, and natural areas. Separation of body and soul from the natural world has increased during the past century with concentrated urban living and by cooping ourselves inside homes away from fresh air, plants, and animals. Daily natural world ventures bring us in contact with plants and animals sharing the world.
It is easy to continue isolation outdoors with earbuds that limit sounds to human music piped to ears when walking or running. Listen to the sounds of crickets and scores of insects that replace the quieting of birds finished with their early breeding season family duties. By staying attuned, discover a full orchestra playing that will become annually familiar and provide a calming comfort through the seasons.
Changes that occur during succeeding years replace orchestra members with new ones that compete for limited seating. Early members prepare richer soil, different lighting, and moisture holding capacity suitable for plants and animals auditioning for their place in a developing community where change is referred to as succession.
The most obvious community change from barren farm field is plant succession from annual plants, to herbaceous perennial wildflowers, woody shrubs like raspberries and dogwoods, and then pioneer trees like musclewood and aspen. Under the pioneer trees, oaks and hickory find root and good living conditions. Associated with plant changes is animal succession. When exploring with others and especially children, I emphasize animal succession. Different animals live in successional plant communities.
We do not need to be young to notice the animals, but it helps. Mouse abundance becomes great in grassy fields where we can find “mouse houses” made of woven grasses. Hawking the grasslands are Red-tailed Hawks feasting on mice. As shrubs colonize fields, Cooper’s Hawks become more abundant in search of birds. In maturing forest Broad-winged Hawks find residence and food.
Different bird species have habitat preferences for early succession herbaceous communities to late succession forests. In each stage of succession called a sere, different insects and invertebrates make their home. Unique bird species and mammals depend on different kinds of insects found in each sere. For many of us, focusing on the succession of animals is more interesting and fun than the change in plant species. Keep exploration fun. Kids are great guides and explorers that will discover abundant life most of us will drift past. Let kids help you enjoy and experience your senses of sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste.
The annual sequence of animals and plants making appearances during the seasons will liven our attention. Little blue butterflies of Spring disappear with the coming of various hairstreak butterflies near the 4th of July. Great Spangled Fritillaries with orange wings soar over fields later in summer. Butterflies have a special beauty but dragonflies feeding on an abundance of small flying insects offer their own thrilling aerobatic displays. Watch for Common Whitetails, Chalk-fronted Corporals, Widow Skimmers, Green Darners, and various species of meadowhawk dragonflies.
A sequence of beetles, flies, grasshoppers, and others abound seasonally. Different successional changes occur over a period of years. Take notice of animal species having ecological niches dependent on specific community relationships that develop in successional communities. Seasonal sequence is different from community succession that occurs over many years.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at - Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.


The Wild Ones Digital Photo Contest is open to amateur photographers of all ages who earn less than 51 percent of their income from photography.

Entries will be accepted from 12:00 am on September 1 through 11:59 pm on November 1, 2020. Entries that are submitted before or after the entry period will not be eligible.

Categories will include:
  • Native Flora
  • Pollinators
  • Wildlife
  • Natives in Home Landscapes
  • Wild Ones Member Projects
  • Youth - photographers 14–18
  • Youth - photographers 13 and under

Winners will be announced on Monday, November 16th, 2020. Cash prizes in the amount of $50 will be awarded to one Best of Show, five category winners, one winner in each youth category, and one People’s Choice winner.

Questions and inquiries about contest rules can be e-mailed to

Indian Grass, photo by Ruth Oldenburg

Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans

Compiled by Joyce Tuharsky

Autumn is approaching, and now is a good time to consider how native grasses can add color and interest to your garden.

Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a showy native perennial that grows 3–7 feet tall and is noted for its upright form and broad blue-green foliage. Its alternate blades grow to 2' long and 1⁄2" across, are flat and hairless, yet rough in texture, and are pointed at the end. During late summer, the plant bears narrow, greatly branched flower panicles (up to 12’’ long) atop stiff vertical stems that rise well above the foliage. Each floret has 3 yellow stamens and 2 white stigmas. The spikelets that bear the florets are fringed with white hairs that give a metallic golden sheen to the flowering parts. These later develop into large, plume-like, seed heads of a soft, golden-brown. In autumn, the color of Indian grass can range from deep orange to purple and usually retains hints of color into the winter.

Many insects, including caterpillars and grasshoppers, feed on Indian Grass. These in turn are an important source of food for many songbirds and upland game birds. Other birds and small mammals eat the grass seeds. Because of its height and tendency to remain erect, Indian Grass provides excellent nesting, escape, and winter cover for wildlife. Throughout the summer when the leaves are green, Indian Grass is relished by livestock and bison, providing a good source of protein and vitamin A.

Indian Grass was one of the dominant prairie grasses which once covered large parts of the Midwest (along with Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, and Switch Grass). It appears to be favored by burning and occasional flooding, sometimes forming nearly pure stands in the lowlands. In northern latitudes, Indian Grass may not be as plentiful as other grasses. However, in southern states, it can comprise over 90 percent of a stand. In Michigan, Indian Grass is found primarily in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.

Indian Grass is a clump grass, which means that it grows as singular plants in tufts, rather than forming a sod or lawn. Such grasses have long roots that can reach moisture more deeply than other grasses during drought. These long roots also aid in slope stabilization, erosion control, and soil porosity. Therefore, Indian Grass is often used for re-vegetation of disturbed areas. Other uses include tall grass prairie restorations, wildlife habitats, animal forage and farm management.

On residential properties, Indian Grass can be planted in mass or blended into naturalized areas. It can also be used as vertical accents along garden borders. It grows easily from seed with no pre-treatment necessary, and various kinds of soil are tolerated. Plant in full to partial sun, and water regularly but do not over water; although periods of flooding or drought are tolerated. Do not cut back in fall because of its winter interest. The flowers of Indian Grass are good for drying and preserving.

More information and photos on Indian Grass are available at:


One thing that makes the iconic monarch butterfly an extraordinary insect is that their migration and populations span a large geographical area and touch the lives of people across North America and beyond. To support their life-cycle they require different habitats, resources, and conservation practices across this expansive range. This creates opportunities for you and others to be a piece of this conservation puzzle and focus on improving a mixture of habitats for this imperiled insect.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) and all of the diverse and critical work that goes into conserving pollinators, the Monarch Joint Venture Communications Working Group and NAPPC Monarch Task Force are launching a new “Monarch Conservation Spotlight” series. The series will highlight a small fraction of the amazing work that is underway to address the declining trend of North American monarch populations and bring you information and resources about how you can get involved. Join us in this new series to learn more!

This month, we’re shining a spotlight on the efforts of the M3 Monarch Migration Study through an interview with André Green II, Inhee Lee, David Blaauw, and Hun-Seok Kim, who are members of the multi-institutional research team working on this novel project. 


— The following is a sponsored advertisement —

   Wild Ones River City Shop at CafePress

Visit to purchase our logo merchandise such as men's and women's apparel, hats, aprons, mugs, totes, and more! Proceeds help further our mission of promoting the use of native plants in the landscape. 
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