Free talk series aims to bring nature home

This white oak (c. 1700–2019) at Lower Lake park came down in the fall 2019 microburst. Oaks and other beneficial trees will be the subject of a March 7 talk.

Early spring is the perfect time to think about what to plant in our yards. These days, we know that the choices we make impact nature as never before. We have a declining tree canopy, declining insect and bird populations, and a global climate emergency.

An upcoming series of free talks, Bringing Nature Home, is intended to help attendees take positive actions at the ground level. The speakers, presented by Friends of Lower Lake and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership (DBWP), will journey from the tree canopy, to the shrub layer, to the ground layer for a holistic look at what makes up healthy habitat in public and private green spaces. The series' tagline, “It’s About Time,” reflects the urgency of restoring urban habitat to good health, as well as how the sequence of plant life supports insects and birds throughout the growing season. Personal choices can make a difference, and this series of talks is intended to provide a guide.

On Saturday, March 7, Courtney Blashka, director of conservation and community forestry at Holden Forest and Gardens, will address declining tree canopy and talk about the overstory. Blashka’s talk is at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, rooms 1A-1B, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. At the end of this event, attendees will have an opportunity to meet the Heights Tree People, who can help them select and plant a (free!) tree in their own yards this spring.

On Saturday, March 14, John Barber, an experienced birder, will explain how to create a healthy bird habitat one's own yard. Imitating how nature feeds the birds can save money on birdseed, as well as increase species diversity. Barber will be speaking at the University Heights Library from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

On Saturday, March 21, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Shaker Heights Library, Stefanie Verish will present an array of native plants that attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators. A Cleveland Metroparks naturalist, Verish will discuss native alternatives to conventional, and sometimes harmful, shrubs, such as Japanese barberry, a popular prickly shrub with bright red berries introduced to the United States in the late 19th century. A common plant at garden centers, Japanese barberry grows unchecked, even by deer, and has invaded natural areas, outcompeting native shrubs that feed insects and birds. According to“research shows that a barberry's dense foliage creates a perfect, humid climate for blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease—a fact that also creates a public health risk.”

In time for spring planting, and in advance of the annual plant sale at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, Nick Mikash, natural resources specialist, will discuss planting the right plant in the right place on Saturday, April 4, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Nature Center. Learn how to create a pollinator path on your street, like the one Bradford Road residents created on theirs. (The annual plant sale at the Nature Center will be on Saturday, May 9).

DBWP, the Friends of Lower Lake, and the Nature Center all work closely with local municipalities. Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, University Heights, and Cleveland, for example, all have sustainability goals. But they uniformly say that the residents of their communities are the biggest drivers of adopting sustainable practices and policies. The more residents demonstrate and demand leadership to meet climate goals, the faster municipalities will work to restore earth’s systems and communities.

For more information and to register for one or more of these talks, go to 

Peggy Spaeth

Peggy Spaeth is co-chair, with John Barber, of Friends of Lower Lake.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 8:56 AM, 02.28.2020