News and Updates from Charlotte's Quest

Did you know that not all bees live in hives like honey bees? In fact of all the bee species, over 90% are solitary bees. Even though they aren't as famous honey bees or bumble bees, solitary bees are vital pollinators.



Solitary bees are not just bees who have left the hive and are now living the single life. Unlike the honey bee, every female solitary bee lays eggs and raises offspring on her own, without the support of workers or drones. Some species of solitary bees do live in a type of social group, with bees building separate nests close to each other.


There are over 200 species of solitary bee. They are non-aggressive and rarely sting. This makes them perfect pollinators that you can invite to make a home in your garden. You can even make a home for them - a simple bundle of hollow canes and twigs securely bundled together should do the trick. If you’d prefer, there are many pre-made bee homes available to purchase.


One type of solitary bee often found in our area is the mason bee. Mason bees are remarkable pollinators – just 250-300 females can pollinate an entire acre. During the early spring months, you can attract mason bees by providing nesting tunnels, plenty of bee food in the form of fruit trees, berries, flowers and vegetables, and a mud source. Mason bee houses can be bought or made from wood, thick paper straws, or hollow reeds. One of our Girl Scout volunteers, Carissa Poore, even built us a mason bee home to have on the park grounds for her Gold Award.



If you’re looking to learn more about mason bees, check out www.crownbees.com. There you can sign up for Bee Mail, and they’ll send you a monthly reminder with timely information about caring for your mason bees. Charlotte's Quest Members are invited to our June First Friday Fire which will be all about bees, and includes an evening hike, campfire and s’mores! As a member, you join a community supporting a thriving, natural environment in Northern Carroll County. Not a member? No problem! You can join on our website here: https://www.charlottesquest.org/plans-pricing


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A little bit of planning will go a long way in streamlining and optimizing your experience at the Plant Swap. Here a few quick tips to help your day go smoothly:


Bring it all! Here's WHY!

When choosing the plants you're willing to swap, just bring them all! While we naturally encourage guests to plant, bring and swap native non-invasive species, we will accept whatever you are able to get out of the ground. If it needs to go, we'll take it off your hands. You will receive one ticket voucher per plant regardless of its status as native/non-native or invasive/noninvasive. After years of debate on this topic, we've decided to do an experiment to see how many people make the right decision on their own once the have all the information. We will be tagging all invasive plants donated to the swap to draw attention to them and encouraging guests to instead choose native options. Can you think of a better outcome than to fill that new-found garden space with a native alternative? Neither can we. Any invasive species not chosen (we hope this is MOST of them!) will be properly disposed of. We are considering this to be a learning opportunity for our community, so we hope you learn something you can implement when selecting plants for your own landscape.


Watch the weather

Once you've identified the plants that need to find a new home, next check the weather the week of the Plant Swap. Plan to dig your plants the day after the forecast calls for rain. This way your plants will be well hydrated, and the softer soil will more easily release the roots, which both minimise trauma to the plant during the move. Mark your Dig Day on the calendar and get your tools and containers ready so when the day comes, you don't have to scramble for supplies.


Bring you plants in containers and do your best to label.

Plan to bring container to hold plants during travel, and mats to protect your car from getting dirty. Most plants at the swap have been taken straight from the ground and will come with a good bit of soil in tow - your vehicle will thank you for placing an extra layer of protection!

While labels are not required, they are preferred! Having clearly labeled plants will help create a more streamlined event for both volunteers and swappers. We suggest using resources like Google or iNaturalist to help identify the plants that aren't as familiar.


Take advantage of early drop-off times.

If you plan to bring enough plants to warrant several trips to the car, we highly recommend taking advantage of our early drop off times! Volunteers will be available to receive your plants on Saturday, May 14 from 5:30-7:30 pm, or Sunday morning from 10 am-12 pm. They will have wheelbarrows and carts and are available to help you with unloading if you require it. Plants can also be dropped off during the event.


Become a Member and get early access!

While our plant swap is a community event, we do reserve 30 minutes prior to opening to the public for our members to get a "First look." Members are able to use this time to shop around and reserve plants. You can gain access by becoming a member here!

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Most plants begin life as seeds - the embryonic stage of the plant life cycle. Plants form their seeds inside flowers or cones. In flowering plants, a fruit often surrounds the seeds.


Features

Seeds consist of three parts: embryo, endosperm, and seed coat. Inside each seed is a miniature plant, called an embryo, that can develop into a fully grown plant. The outer shell of a seed, called a seed coat, protects the embryo. Inside the seed is a nutritious material that provides food to the embryo. In flowering plants this material is called endosperm.



Germination

When conditions are right, the seed starts taking in water and grows until the coat splits apart. The seed is then exposed to the air. The oxygen in the air helps the baby plant consume the food packed inside the seed. Much like humans, consuming the food produces energy and the baby plant uses that energy to grow. The root begins to grow downward, and the stem begins to curl upward.


How Seeds Travel

There are many ways seeds travel. Birds and other animals often eat fruits and vegetables with seeds that aren’t digested – these undigested seeds drop to the ground and make new plants. Some seeds are carried to new places by the wind – you’ve surely helped this process by blowing dandelions seeds! Some catch on an animal’s hair or hiker’s socks and are carried elsewhere.


Learn More

On Friday May 6th, we invite Members to join us for our First Friday Fire – All About Seeds! We’ll also take a night hike and roast marshmallows around the campfire. You can register for this event on our website. And if you’re not a member already, that’s no problem – you can join today.



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