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Volunteers create butterfly habitat at Teaneck Creek

By Howard Prosnitz, NorthJersey.com

871 days ago   Article ID# 1547617
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Teaneck Creek Conservancy

SPARTA, NEW JERSEY (NorthJersey.com) - A half dozen volunteers toiled with picks, shovels and their own hands to pull out invasive plants from the Teaneck Creek Conservancy on April 4 and replaced them with native plants to create a habitat for butterflies.

The project, which is organized by the Bergen County Audubon Society, has begun in the southwest section of the 46-acre park. April 4 marked the ground breaking, but the project will be done in phases and continue throughout the spring, said Don Torino, president of the Audubon Society.

Native species to be planted include milkweed, buttonbush, spicebush, ironweed and joe-pye weed. Volunteers were planting viburnums, a native host to butterflies, on April 4.

Butterfly-friendly plants fall into two categories, Torino said - Host plants, on which butterflies lay eggs and caterpillars eat, and plants that are nectar sources for butterflies.

Native species will not only attract butterflies but also help bring other wildlife to the park, Torino said.

"Some plants grow berries that attract birds and native insects, like bees. Planting the native species is like triggering a light switch. Wildlife returns. It is incredible to witness," he said.

Invasive plants migrated from Europe taking a number of routes. Phragmites were dumped with waste water from ships. Some plants were intentionally planted in the mistaken belief that they could control erosion, Torino said.

Next to habitat loss, invasives are the single, largest cause of species extinction worldwide, according to the TCC website.

A joint study by Rutgers University and TRC Omni Environmental identified more than 245 plants species at the conservancy, including more than 90 classified as non-native invasives.

"The problem with invasive plants is that, although in their natural habitat they provided food for wildlife, they are not good for anything here, where they are uncontrolled and run rampant," said Torino. "You can have an area that looks lush, but is not good for anything."

Invasive plants at Teaneck Creek include phragmites, Japanese knotweed and Mile a Minute vine, so named because of its rapid growth. Once these plants are removed, they need to be replaced with native plants or they will grow back.

The Teaneck Creek Weed Warriors, a volunteer group, meets regularly in the spring and fall to clear invasives. But the butterfly habitat project is the first time that native species have been intentionally planted to replace invasives.

Teaneck resident Mary Signorile was among the volunteers planting viburnums on April 4. She has previously volunteered as a Weed Warrior.

"We try to keep the trails clear and remove invasives. If the dead tree is blocking a stream, we remove it," she said.

Her friend Flo Rutherford, of Bergenfield, a bird watcher, noted that the plantings will bring in more birds because the berries attract both birds and insects that the birds eat.

Copyright 2014 NorthJersey.com   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 871 days ago   Article ID# 1547617

Teaneck Creek Conservancy    Visit Website

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