The Old Coot finds a hidden gem

I was sitting in the Owego Kitchen sipping coffee, scribbling in my note book, and taking up valuable space at a cost of only $2.48 a cup, unlimited refills. A nice couple stopped by and said I should have a look at the pollinator planting around the flagpole at the Ronald Dougherty County office building on Main Street. 

“Just take a look; there’s a story there.” 

So, I did. It looked like a weed patch at first glance, but when I dug deeper I found a rose in this bed of thorns. (Sorry for the lame simile.) But the beauty was hidden. This “weed patch” may be one of the most important plantings on the grounds. 

It’s loaded with native plants that play an important role in sustaining the bee, butterfly, and bird populations. The monarch butterflies, for example, only lay their eggs on milkweed, a wild plant that is disappearing as parking lots and commercial development increasingly eliminate their growing space. Other butterflies are also dependent on a specific plant or two. Bees have their favorites too. All owe their survival to native plants. 

The more I learned about the subject, thanks to input from Elaine Benjamin and Paula Carman, the more persuaded I was to consider establishing a small plot of native plants in my own yard (*). It would be especially pleasing to me, since I can’t tell a weed from a flower anyhow, and am even fond of the look of a bright yellow meadow of dandelions. If everyone had a four-foot plot of the native plants of the type essential to the butterfly, bee and bird population, the assault of urban sprawl on these species could be neutralized. 

Kevin Millar is doing just that, on a grand scale, heading up an Owego Rotary project on the western edge of the village between Water Street and Canal Street that includes, among other things, extensive beds of native plants (yarrow, milkweed, coneflower and false aster, to name a few) in an attempt to create a wonderful, relaxing natural garden to stroll through, as well as an educational horticulture venue. 

Weed patch? There is more to it than meets the eye. If you see an old coot someplace, looking sort of like a weed patch, you might consider that both old coots and weed patches can be of more value to society than meets the eye.  

* If I had paid attention, I would have known that we already have a milkweed plant growing in my wife’s garden.

P.S., maybe the county should erect a small sign in front of the pollinator garden around the flagpole that can be read while driving or walking by that says, “Pollinator Garden – Vital to our bee, butterfly and bird populations.”  

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