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In your newsletter this winter:

1. Marcescence

2. The importance of pollinators

3. Considerations for your pollinator garden

4. Discover Sanguinaria canadensis

5. Fascinating relationships, second chapter:
Ghost plant and myccorhizal fungi

1. Marcescence

Have you ever noticed that the leaves of some deciduous trees senesce and wither in the fall, but remain on the tree until late winter or early spring?  This phenomenon is called marcescence.  The most common marcescent species here are American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and various oaks (Quercus spp).  Since this is primarily observed in young trees or on the lower branches of mature specimens, it has been hypothesized that leaf retention could help limiting herbivory of buds during winter. Others have suggested that it could give trees an edge in early spring, as leaves can act as thermal conduits, by absorbing heat from the sun.   
Did you know?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are not native to North America and have been introduced from Europe.  Their pollen can cause a decline in reproduction of some of our native plants.

From Alexandre Bergeron, in Sauvons les abeilles ! Est-ce du greenwashing ? · iNaturalist Canada). 
2. The importance of pollinators

Pollinators are important because at least 80% of flowering plants depend on them for reproduction.  They also support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.  Although the domestic European honeybee (Apis mellifera) remains the best known non-native species and is commonly used to pollinate agricultural plants, the pollinating fauna found in our natural environments includes birds, bats (in tropical climates), butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, native bees.  Wild native bees often go unnoticed because they are solitary.  Although all pollinators play an important function in our ecosystems, bees are considered the most effective, because they visit more flowers, carry more pollen and travel further.  According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 64% of global food supply depends on bees, and 270 native species do the bulk of this work.  In North America, there are an estimated 3500 to 4000 native bee species, and more than 970 in Canada. 
You may have heard that bees are disappearing at an alarming rate.  They, along with all pollinators face many challenges.  According to Doug Tallamy and other scientists, pesticide use, habitat loss, introduction of non-native and/or invasive ornamentals, outdoor night lights and climate change, all contribute to pollinators demise.  In the face of this disconcerting information, what can we do?  The positive aspect to note from this list, is that we all have the power to change many of these factors.  Keep reading for more information!   
3. Considerations for your pollinator garden

We are already in the middle of February and I am sure many of you are dreaming about your gardens.  Why not consider native pollinators in your planning this year?  Native pollinators form a very diverse community that is active from early spring to late fall.  For this reason, they require a continuous succession of flowers for nourishment and reproductive success.  Supporting native pollinators is not just about foraging resources (pollen and nectar).  Wild bees also depend on a proper habitat to complete their life cycle.  Examples include exposed sandy soils, hollow stems, water, shelter, to name a few.  Remember to delay fall maintenance until the spring: wild pollinators overwinter as adults or as larvae and they use hollow stems and fallen leaves as shelters. 
Native plants are ideal choices for native pollinators.  They co-evolved over millions of years, and many are interdependent.  Beware of hybrids, cultivars and nativars.  There are some exceptions, but their modified traits (principally of flowers and foliage) can result in reduced nutrient value and attractiveness for pollinators. 
Did you know that the non-native dandelions are not the only or the first to flower in spring?  Some early flowering woody families, such as Salix, Cornus, and Rubus can support generalist and specialist bees.  For shady areas, woodland ephemerals can be an option along with herbaceous perennials such as Polemonium reptans, Zizias or Violas.  For the balance of the season, there are many Asters and non-aggressive solidago species to chose from.  There are so many more options, below are a few links to more information.   

To learn more
Bring Back the Pollinators | Xerces Society
Mitigating the Effects of Heat on Urban Pollinators | Xerces Society
Attirer les pollinisateurs au potager | Espace pour la vie
Did you know?

Pollen contains at least twice the amount of protein as a steak.  Wasps are carnivorous and consume meat (generally other insects) to obtain protein.  Bees are the vegetarian “cousins” of wasps and have evolved to consume pollen to obtain protein.   

Image from: What Bees Eat Pollination — Museum of the Earth
4. Discover Sanguinaria canadensis
Sanguinaria canadensis, commonly called bloodroot, is an attractive clumping spring perennial.  Some references do not consider it a true ephemeral, because the leaves can persist until late summer.  Each plant has a single leaf, round, thick and shaped into lobes.  The solitary white flower opens only when the temperature is warm enough for pollinators to be active (primarily Andrena spp.).  The flower closes every evening and reopens the following morning until pollination occurs.  Research has shown that it can also self-pollinate in unfavourable conditions (cold, wind, rain).  Sanguinarius means ‘bloody’, and its Latin name is descriptive of the red fluid present in its roots.  Bloodroot is a vulnerable species in Québec due to overharvesting.  If you are considering incorporating it as an understory option, make sure to purchase the plants from a reputable supplier and to never harvest from the wild. 

"These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat.

-Rachel Carson - Silent Spring   
5. Fascinating relationships, second chapter:
Indian pipe and myccorhizal fungi

Have you ever observed these delicate white structures on the forest floor?  They could be mistaken for a fungus, yet they are herbaceous perennial plants and native to North America.  They are commonly known as Ghost Plant, Ghost Pipe or Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).  They are white because they lack chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the pigment present in algae and plants that allows the conversion of sunlight into energy.  You may be wondering how these plants can survive without the ability to photosynthesize?  Monotropa uniflora are parasitic plants which obtain nutrients by tapping into the resources of trees.  They achieve this indirectly through myccorhizal fungi.  The tree obtains its energy from photosynthesis and the myccorhizal fungi obtains its nutrients directly from the tree roots.  Monotropa uniflora get their nourishment through the fungi, a relationship called mycotropism.  Because they do not rely on sunlight for energy, M. uniflora can be observed in deep-shade areas.  
Don't forget, you can now consult our previous newsletters on our website!
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