Native Plant Profile: Amelanchier x grandiflora

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Today I planted Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance', Apple Serviceberry, in my backyard native plant garden.

I chose my backyard as my final class project for Urban Garden Design at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last year. Serviceberry is one of the two key plants I specified for my planting scheme. Serviceberries are multi-season plants. They bloom in early Spring, before the flowering cherries. The berries ripen in mid-summer; they are edible and tasty, and attractive to birds. Fall color is excellent. Branching structure and bark provide winter interest.

Here are the initial sketch and final design for the project. The Amelanchier is the second smallest circle on the left (north) of the plan. In this design for an urban woodland garden, the Serviceberry plays the role of an understory tree. The larger circle on the right is Sassafras albidum, the canopy tree, which is proving even more difficult to source than the Amelanchier.


More Green Roofs for Parks Recreation Centers

Ten Parks recreation centers, including three in Brooklyn, will be getting green roofs. The planting will be based on two regional plant communities:
Each system will include 12 experimental plots, 85 square feet each, with soil depths ranging from 4 to 6 inches.

Each plot will be planted with a species mix from two native plant communities, the Hempstead Plains (Long Island) and Rocky Summit Grasslands (e.g. Bear Mountain) of the New York City region. These models were chosen because they are meadows, have plants that can tolerate the desiccated soils and high winds typical of roof conditions, and provide prime foraging for native insects and birds.

- A Green Roof Is Coming To A Recreation Center Near You!, Daily Plant, 2010-05-06
Here are the species they've specified from each community:

Hempstead Plains:
  • Schizachyrium scoparium, Little bluestem (Grass)
  • Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass
  • Sorghastrum nutans, Indian grass
  • Baptisia tinctoria, Yellow wild indigo
  • Solidago nemoralis, Gray goldenrod
  • Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly-weed
  • Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaved boneset
  • Rubus flagellaris, North Dewberry
Rocky Summit Grasslands:
  • Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylavania sedge
  • Danthonia spicata, Poverty-oat grass
  • Deschampsia flexuosa, Common Hairgras
  • Lespedeza capitata, Bush-clover
  • Lysimachia quadrifolia, Whorled loosestrife
  • Cunila origanoides, Stone-mint, Dittany
  • Solidago odora, Licorice-goldenrod
  • Vaccinium angustifolium, Low-bush blueberry
Cunila origanoides is one of the three native plant species that were given away at the kickoff for NYC Wildflower Week last Saturday in Union Square. It's in the Lamiaceae, the Mint Family. Its leaves smell like oregano. (The other two species were Thalictrum pubescens and Hystrix patula.)


Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Staten Island

Tim Chambers, Greenbelt Native Plant Center Nursery Manager, and our guide for the tour, explains GNPC's history and mission at the start of the tour.
Greenbelt Native Plant Center

Monday, May 3, I visited the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC) for the first time. This tour was one of over 45 events scheduled for NYC Wildflower Week. From the event description:
The Greenbelt Native Plant Center is the only municipal native plant nursery in the country. It is a 13-acre greenhouse, nursery, founder seed and seed bank complex owned and operated by NYC Parks & Recreations Dept. Over the past fifteen years, the center has grown hundreds of thousands of specimens from locally collected seed of the city's indigenous flora for use in restoration, and replanting projects and is currently developing bulk seed mixes for the city. The GNPC is a partner in the establishment of the first national native seed bank called Seeds of Success.
GNPC operates as a wholesale nursery serving primarily, but not exclusively, restoration projects around the NYC area. GNPC partners with other growers around the region. Not all their efforts go to NYC wild areas and parks; some go to other, nearby restorations, and they also receive plants of specific species when they don't have the stock to meet the demand.

There are over 2,000 plant species native to the NYC area. GNPC currently propagates about 350, a remarkable proportion. That range is important; GNPC is not just in the business of species preservation, but also restoration of plant communities. That work requires sourcing of many different species, and the plant "palette" required depends on the goals of each project.


It all starts with the collection of seed from the wild. Collections are done throughout the region; NYC itself has over 8,700 acres in 51 nature preserves under its Forever Wild program. Wherever it comes from, the seed collection protocol links back to the mission of GNPC. As Tim Chambers, our guide for the tour, and GNPC's Nursery Manager, explained to us, non-selection is the goal.