13. Name 5 grasses in your area. Are any of them native?
The following species of grass are all native to Long Island. I was able to find a wonderful pamphlet designed by students at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School that offered suggestions of native plants to be used in landscaping and planting gardens, as alternatives to imported species.
1. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Big bluestem is named for its blue-green stems that range from 4 to 8 feet tall. It is a perennial plant that grows in moist sands, loams, and clays in warm seasons.
2. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Switchgrass is another tall-growing, warm-season, perennial grass. It has been proposed for use as a biofuel because it requires less energy input than corn, and has fewer environmental impacts, in terms of planting large monocultures that decrease biodiversity.
3. Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Little bluestem grows to be a medium height grass with bluish stems. It is well adapted to many different soil conditions.
4. Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens)
Saltmeadow cordgrass is specially adapted to grow in the salt marsh environment, which is found in Port Jefferson. It grows during the warm season to be 1 to 2 feet high. Living under such salty conditions, this type of grass has special adaptations such as specialized cells to prevent salt from entering the roots. Saltmeadow cordgrass is especially important to our environment because it filters pollution from the water, prevents erosion, and buffers flooding.
5. Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
Smooth cordgrass is similar to saltmeadow cordgrass. It grows in the intertidal zone, reaching heights from 6 inches to 7 feet tall. Smooth cordgrass is the most productive marsh grass in ecosystems.
The pamphlet I referenced pointed out the important benefits of using native rather than foreign species when planting yards and gardens:
“Native plants are adapted to the local climate, soils, and insects; therefore, they require little or no additional fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation. As a result, the use of native plants minimizes the transport of nutrients and pesticides into the groundwater and improves the health of our nearby harbors and estuaries. Native plants provide butterflies, birds, and wildlife with shelter and food, including seeds, berries, and nectar.”
You can see from the pictures that these are not typical lawn grasses. However, these are the plants that are suited for Port Jefferson’s conditions, and do not require nearly as much care to maintain as a common lawn. Lawns are actually kind of awful for the environment, as they use large amounts of water and require fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals are then swept away in runoff, thus, making such lawns responsible for the degradation of local water quality.
Furthermore, invasive species can have disastrous effects on ecosystems, when they are able to grow unrestricted. Suffolk County was the first county within the state of New York to outlaw the sale of a number of invasive species (see the list here!) Within the town of Port Jefferson, there have been initiatives to encourage the use of native plants in landscaping, to preserve our biodiversity.
Path of Yellow on Flickr.
Port Jefferson Harbor - Long Island New York
This weekend retreat faces down into a beautiful river valley rimmed by basalt cliffs. The owner challenged Miller Hull to construct a limited, two room program using materials that were resistant to fire, wind, and intruders. A simple geometric form composed of clearly articulated materials was used to produce a building that is truly “western” in character without being nostalgic.