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Vol. 4, No. 2 Maysie's Farm Conservation Center, Glenmoore, PA August 2003
Community Supported Agriculture
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The Botanical Sanctuary at Maysie's Farm
By Charlene L. Briggs

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that over 30,000 plant varieties worldwide are in imminent danger of extinction; that's nearly 12% of the world's plant species. In the United States alone, over 2,400 acres of native habitat are lost every day. In most cases, native biodiversity is never recovered. As we lose plants, many of which have been our medicinal allies for centuries, herbalists and others within the herbal industry are becoming increasingly concerned about the preservation of native medicinal plants.

Out of this growing concern, United Plant Savers (UpS) was born. In 1994, at the Green Nations gathering in the Catskill Mountains of New York, Rosemary Gladstar, a well known herbalist, spearheaded the UpS movement by uniting herbalists, botanists, organic farmers and others who care deeply for the earth and plant medicines. The mission of UpS is to protect native medicinal plants and their habitats. Our goal is to increase public awareness of the plight of native medicinal plants, to promote reintroduction of at-risk plants into native habitats and to increase their propagation through sustainable cultivation. UpS supports this mission by identifying at-risk medicinal plants, promoting botanical sanctuaries throughout North America, providing resources for seeds, plants and root stock and sponsoring educational programs for schools and communities on planting at-risk medicinal species.

Creation of a network of botanical sanctuaries throughout North America is a top priority for UpS. Each UpS botanical sanctuary serves as: an Educational Center, where diverse learning programs are offered to the public on medicinal plants: a Native Plant Research Center, with the focus on population studies, seed germination and sustainable organic cultivation of native medicinal plants; a Repository of Native Medicinal Plant Germplasm, to ensure genetic diversity and long term survival of plant species; a Propagation Facility to supply seed and root stock for those wishing to grow native plants; and a Sustainable Land Use Model, for similar projects at other sites.


In early 2002 UpS awarded Maysie's Farm Conservation Center a grant to establish a botanical sanctuary, pursuant to a grant application summarizing the proposed sanctuary's role in the ongoing environmental education programs at the Farm. In May, 2002, with the help of the first AmeriCorps team, an enormous brush pile was cleared out of the woods below the children's garden, masses of multiflora rose and invasive vines were removed and round one of the endangered specimens were planted.

We planted Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa; Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides; Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis; Trillium, Trillium spp.; Helonias Root, Chamaelirium luteum; Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, Arnica, Arnica montana and Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea. Unfortunately, the new plants suffered severely from both the drought and the ambivalent deer herd, whose territory had been invaded. The deer especially enjoyed the bloodroot and ate it down to the roots.


In November 2002, I replaced all of the dead plants, adding Lobelia, Lobelia cardinalis and Calamus root, Acorus calamus on the western border. I also constructed wire cages around the plants to discourage the deer. Occasionally there has been a cage trampled and a plant eaten, but for the most part, the cages have deterred the deer long enough for the plants to have become established.

Thankfully, all of the plants returned in spring 2003, except the lobelia inflata, which tends to be temperamental, and the Helonias root, which the deer grazed. The Bloodroot and Trillium made their debut with beautiful snow-white blooms in April. Black and Blue Cohosh emerged strong and healthy and the delicate Maidenhair Fern fronds spread along the intermittent stream, flanked by beautiful quartz rocks in the heart of the sanctuary. Entrance to the sanctuary is marked by two, recently planted, elderberry bushes and the red hydrant that is part of the irrigation system, which was laboriously (and gratefully) installed this spring.

Plants growing in the sanctuary are at-risk due to loss of habitat and over wildcrafting from the herbal industry. 'At-risk' is defined as "those herbs broadly used in commerce that are, due to loss of habitat and over harvest, diminished in population and viability within their current range." This loss of habitat, combined with the skyrocketing demand for herbal medicines throughout the world, has brought us to a critical juncture where many important medicinal plants are threatened with extinction. Though we may see many of the plants listed as at-risk growing in our area, bioregional abundance is not an assurance of a plant's long-term sustainability. Plants protected in the sanctuary are at risk of becoming extinct due to rate of range depletion and decreasing abundance. There are many factors considered when placing medicinal plants on the at-risk list. These include the ever increasing tonnage required to meet growing market demand, plant growth patterns; maturity and survival rates under optimal conditions, the part of the plant used for medicine (root medicines mean destruction of the entire plant), the specificity of it's habitat, the rate of habitat destruction within the plant's range, and the nature of the pressures, such as urban sprawl, logging or conventional agriculture, impacting its survival.

By creating sanctuary, a sacred space for plants, we become stewards of the land, we restore the idea that the land belongs to all of life (even the pesky deer) and we recognize that it is our job to restore it to its richest diversity. Look for sanctuary updates and information on herb walks in future issues of Maysie's Messages.

Going Wild with Native Plants
by Dawn Lawless

Where does that trail lead? Through the two rooms of the sunflower house, past the fruits of our "Growing Families, Growing Gardens" workshop — the rows of flowering potato plants and huge heads of lettuce — to the tipi waiting for the scarlet runner beans to run up its poles. And off to the right? Is it me, or did that section of the Children's Garden change dramatically since last year?

The Children's Garden has begun a transformation designed to attract more birds, butterflies and other wildlife. With assistance from a $500 Pennsylvania Game Commission "Wild Action Grant," students from King's Highway Elementary School's GLOBE Club ("Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment", an international ecology club) planted native perennials that will increase biodiversity in the garden by providing food and shelter for an increased array of creatures.

Dan Barringer, a CSA member (and Education Committee member) and Preserve Manager of Crow's Nest Farm (a Natural Lands Trust property), spent several days working with the fourth and fifth graders, first in their classroom and then at the farm. He did a wonderful job of teaching them about native plant and landscape design. At school, the students researched native plants and selected a wide variety of species that would flourish in the conditions of the site. Then they designed the layout, keeping in mind each plant's requirements and mature size.

Members of the GLOBE Club

At the farm, the Globe Club kids worked hard to remove invasive exotic species, such as multifloral rose and honeysuckle, and unfriendly plants, such as poison ivy and stinging nettle, from the site, which had been an untended hedgerow for many years. Realizing that native plants promote native animal life and that they are easier to maintain than exotic plants, because they are better adapted to the conditions here, they planted native species such as Joe Pye Weed, Culver's Root, Monkey Flower, Bergamot and Tall Coneflower, to name a few. They applied mulch to the new section of the garden and then installed stepping stones (donated by Brandywine Quarry in Parkesburg, PA) so that people would be able to weed the garden without causing significant soil compaction.

Please take a stroll down to the Children's Garden — with or without children — to admire the GLOBE Club's work (and maybe pull a weed or two while you're there). I think you'll enjoy watching the area become more beautiful and full of biodiversity as the native perennial plants mature.

Wish List

Looking to get rid of any of the following items? Maysie's Farm will put them to good use!
  • Empty yogurt cups with plastic lids
  • Garden hoses
  • Straw bale chopper
  • Picnic table
  • Manure spreader, or information leading to the acquisition of one!
  • Cordless, electric lawn mower
  • Rechargeable AAA batteries
  • Solar-powered walkway lights to provide light from the parking area to the barn
  • Tractor
  • Working mowers (especially electric ones)
  • Large outdoor canopy

Please contact Sam at (610) 458-8129 or if you can donate any of these items.

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