Our New Native Plant Network

This past winter, the Mayor and Council passed legislation drafted by Councilman Chesek to create the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. This is a new idea and probably easiest to explain by first talking a bit about biodiversity.

Biodiversity is the enormous variety of plants, bugs, bees, birds, bears, humans, and everything in between that makes our planet so wonderfully alive and habitable. The services provided by biodiversity, such as pollination, are crucial to our planet and human existence. Unfortunately, misguided human development is accelerating climate change and habitat loss, and our planet is losing biodiversity at increasingly alarming rates.

Our response to this threat will determine the kind of planet future generations get to enjoy. Our challenge is to take bold action and turn the tide on biodiversity loss, preventing a diminished future with a scarcity of wild animals, plants and pollinators. To address this crisis, leading environmental groups are campaigning to preserve 30% of the planet as nature preserves, but unfortunately, creating islands of biodiversity in our state and national parks is not enough. Incorporating native plants into the local landscape – yards, businesses and public spaces – and connecting biodiversity across the state is critical.

Here’s the idea. To restore biodiversity to our community, volunteers are setting up the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. The volunteers will educate, encourage, and assist residents, apartment owners, businesses and our local governments with planting and documenting native plants on their properties.

How do I get involved? Anyone can sign up as a participating home or business or volunteer in the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. As a participant you will plant or maintain native plants in your yard with the goal of having at least 25 different native plant species in your yard, or 10% of your yard planted with natives. This fall a volunteer will come by to verify and officially count you as a certified yard in the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network.

Are there incentives? Certified yards will receive a beautiful and artistic small yard sign (designed by our very own Torie Partridge) to show off their membership. Your certified yard will also be included on an online map, providing a virtual representation of the native plant ecosystem in our city.

Is help available? Yes! If you don’t know how to get started you can request a no-cost consultation from volunteers trained by the Prince George’s County Audubon Society Wildlife Habitat Program. Email Kathy Shollenberger (kathyk9@gmail.com) to set up a time for a local volunteer to visit your property, and lend their expertise and guidance at helping you create a beautiful native landscape that is both better for the environment and often easier to maintain than a traditional grass lawn.

Additionally, native pollinator seeds and soil are being provided through the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Watershed Stewards Class for citizens who are volunteering to plant native yards this growing season. If you are interested, please email Dave Epley at dmepley@gmail.com. Supplies are limited!

This is just the start. The Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter has the goal of creating a Native Plant Corridor across the state of Maryland. Mount Rainier can lead the way as a shining example.  With so much outside of our sphere of influence in the fight to save our planet, it is heartening to know that there is something we can start right here, right now, to help save our planet. 

Learn more. The Mount Rainier Native Plant Network will be holding a Zoom meeting on March 30th at 7pm to help kick off this movement. You can sign up at http://bit.ly/3aaCZEN or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com. If you can’t make it but want to find out how you can join the Network and get involved, email Dave Epley or Kathy Shollenberger (contact above).

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Currently, our meetings are held virtually via Zoom. All interested citizens are invited to attend and can email us for the meeting connection information.