What is Native Haunts?
Native Haunts is first and foremost a native plant advocate. Why do plants need an advocate? Even though native plants grow all around us, general knowledge about their function and importance in our world is woefully lacking. By planting natives you are supporting an entire food web, stitching back together our tattered ecosystems. Native plants provide food for pollinators and insect larvae; the latter of which is a critical food source for birds both young and old. In my opinion, native plants are the answer to many of our most pressing environmental problems; loss of habitat and biodiversity, slowing climate change through carbon sequestration, erosion control, water quality, the list goes on and on.
Who is Native Haunts?
Shawn Jalbert is the owner and operator of Native Haunts. As a lifelong Maine native, his love of the natural world and specifically native plants began at a very young age. He spent his childhood exploring the fields, forests, wetlands, and ponds surrounding his rural home in Alfred, fieldbook in hand. As he grew older, he became an avid hiker and cyclist, always most content to spend his days outside, constantly distracted by plants. When it was time to pursue higher education, the study of Plant Biology was a clear choice, and he earned his BS at the University of New Hampshire. Upon graduation, his intense passion for ecology and the preservation of native flora and fauna caused him to search for individuals and organizations that shared his passion. It quickly became clear that there were few local resources for encouraging the use of native plants in landscape environments. He has made it his mission to make native plants, and the knowledge of their critical importance, available to the general public. He founded Native Haunts in 2002. “Native Haunts” is an “old-timey” term to describe native plants in their natural habitats. For the last 20 years he’s made it his mission to sustainably propagate and sell native plant materials, but more importantly, to share the vast knowledge he has accumulated through his personal experience and his intense studies as a lecturer and consultant.
Nativity, Genotypes, and Provenance-what they mean to your plants.
There are many fine shades for the definition of “native”. The basic concept should hold true for anyone speaking of natives; native plants are those plants that have grown and evolved here for the millennia before European arrival. Many of our native plants have ranges that span the continent. Take chokecherry; I was stunned to find this growing in the Shoshone National Forest in western Wyoming; this same species is growing in my back yard! If I took the seeds from the Wyoming plants and grew them out, could I say these are native to Maine?
Yes and no. The species is native to Maine but the genotype in this example is definitely not. A genotype is all about provenance, the place in which the plant has grown; the living and non-living factors present in the species environment are a great influence. Chokecherries from western Wyoming grow in a very different climate and habitat then the ones here in Maine. Wyoming is much drier, the soils are basic instead of acidic, pollinating species and animal dispersers who eat the berries are probably different, the symbiotic fungi that live in the soil are probably not the same, even the flowering times and fruit set times are different. The Wyoming plants are adapted to their specific environment, just as the Maine plants have adapted to our higher rainfall, acidic soils, local pollinators, and dispersal agents. Same species, but very different genotypes.
Varietal vs. wild type native plants
There is a lot of controversy regarding varietal/cultivar selections and wild type plants. A growing body of evidence indicates that many of these varietal natives or “nativars”, do not fulfill the same ecological role as wild type plants. These “improved” selections may sport larger berries (Winterberry cultivars), or distinctly colored and shaped flowers (Echinacea). However, some plant varieties have been shown to attract more insect pollinators then the unimproved wild type (Google “Mt Cuba Center trials”). Annie S. White from the University of Vermont has conducted research comparing how pollinators interact with native wild type plants versus native plant cultivars. Take a few moments to Google her name and read more on this important topic. Annie’s PhD dissertation was entitled From Nursery to Nature: Evaluating Native Herbaceous Flowering Plants Versus Native Cultivars for Pollinator Habitat Restoration.
Sometimes the only natives we can buy at garden centers are the varietal types. Varieties can be determined by looking for an additional name after the species name on the plant tag such as Ilex verticillata “Red Sprite” or Ilex glabra “Shamrock”. In the case of Ilex verticillata, common name winterberry, many of the varieties are based on the sex of the plant; there are male and female varieties. Winterberry is grown for the berries and the varietal designations help us plan our landscapes accordingly. So, they can be helpful, sometimes.
We focus on and prefer to use non-varietal wild type plants; varietal/cultivars of particular species are used infrequently and only when there are no other options available. (This line of reasoning runs counter to mainstream nursery production theory, where varieties are preferred due to their consistent properties). It is becoming apparent that not all varieties and cultivars are necessarily “bad”, but we have to choose carefully. For right now, wildtype plants are the surest option for ecological connectivity.
Growing from Seed vs Cuttings
It has been said that growing from seed is the gold standard of genetic diversity. There are lots of places that advocate the use of seed grown native plants and we definitely agree. But, growing from cuttings has its place too. There are species that grow very easily from cuttings, willows are a great example, all you have to do is throw some cuttings in a bucket of water and like magic, roots sprout. Have you ever tried to collect willow seed? There are male and female plants to begin with. Timing of seed collection is very fickle. The whole process is kind of hard. I know, nobody ever said growing from seed would be easy, but why wouldn’t we take advantage of this efficient way to grow plants? Some would argue that by propagating from cuttings we are limiting the genetic diversity of our plants because we are cloning. So, collect cuttings from a number of different plants. Would you rather have no plants because seed growing is prohibitive or lots of plants that have a little less genetic diversity?
We grow from seed as much as we can, but also grow from cuttings when it is practical to do so.
In addition to the plants and seeds we offer for sale, a variety of consulting and landscape services are available-
- Integrating native plants into your landscape
- Native plant identification
- Plant installation and maintenance of landscapes
- Procurement of plant propagating material
- Plant inventory of areas.
When I first started Native Haunts, one of my goals was to grow all of my own plants, from seed that I collected, from locally growing plants. This worked well until I started running into production problems. Native plants can be hard to grow from seed and with some species I had crop failure year after year. I was quickly running out of plants to sell at the same time that demand for native plants was rising. I wanted to be able to supply folks with the native plants they wanted, but just didn’t have enough.
After years of deliberation and hesitation, I reluctantly did what almost every other nursery does; offer plants from other nurseries for sale. It is turning out to be a good model as it allows me to offer a march larger variety of plants-numbers, size/pricing options, and species diversity. I still grow many of my own plants; now instead of trying to grow everything, I grow plants that may not be available from other growers. The plants I import are to supplement the ones that I grow here in Alfred, both in diversity and quantity.
When purchasing plants don’t hesitate to ask questions, I’ll be happy to tell you if I grew them or they were started at another nursery.
Plants are never dug from the wild.
It should be noted that some of our propagating material comes from wild plants. Most of our propagating material is now coming from stock plants that were grown out from wild collected seed.
Organic and best management practices are used throughout the growing operation-
- Pesticides and herbicides are not used. If the occasional outbreak of pests and disease cannot be controlled with cultural methods the plants are destroyed. Weeds are controlled the old fashioned way by pulling.
- Organic fertilizers consist of compost, seaweed, and fish emulsion; inorganic N-P-K type fertilizer is used in the form of time release pellets, like Osmocote.
- Repellents like Hot Pepper Wax and garlic/putrefied egg/dried blood type products are used to deter herbivory.
Organic nursery production seems to be a relatively new and evolving concept. Most of the literature available on organic production focuses on food crops; many of these ideas can be applied to ornamental plant production, such as-organic fertilizer use, soil health and protection, management of fertilizer and pesticide run off.