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Beardsley Zoo Bioblitz - 2009

Master Gardeners Champion Native Plants at Bioblitz

By MG Rosemary Volpe

This summer, Master Gardener interns Joan Boehm, Susan Hunter, Diane Montuoro and Mary Ellen Unger and Rosemary Volpe from the Fairfield County and New Haven County extension offices had the opportunity to spread the word about invasive species at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, as part of educational bioblitz events on August 1, 2009, sponsored by the Zoo and Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.

A bioblitz is a 24-hour survey to identify as many plants, animals and fungi as possible in a specific area, in this case the town of Stratford.

The bioblitz teams met at the Beardsley Zoo to sort and identify what they had collected, and this was where Zoo visitors could watch them at work, hear about the bioblitz and learn about the biodiversity. We set up our tables piled high with handouts, brochures, posters, and fact sheets just inside the main gate.

Our focus was to provide information about invasive species, a perfect fit in the context of a local biological survey. Thanks to Master Gardener Larry Birch, we had fresh samples of invasive plants to display. We even had a display specimen of the Asian Long-horned Beetle to show (a real conversation starter!).

We also let people know about landscaping alternatives for commercially available invasive plant cultivars, which although on the Connecticut Invasive Plant List, are not banned. We were fortunate to be able to display some native plants loaned by Andy Brand at Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden. Native plants are a wonderful alternative for invasive cultivars; they provide foliage textures and seasonal color that rival the commercial cultivars, are better adapted to local soils and climate, and are a better fit with native bird, animal and insect species in the local ecology.

We spoke with many families that day, and hopefully left people a little wiser about the problem of invasive species.

Our thanks to everyone who helped out for their support and encouragement.

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Above: Fungi samples and reference material on display at the Beardsley Bioblitz

Below: Visitors view the posters of CT invasive and native plants, while the MG team researches a garden query

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