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End of an Era for ENPS – Last Days of the John Janzen Nature Centre Demonstration Bed

Updated: Jun 20

This evening (June 11) marks the last Tuesday night ever that I shall journey to the John Janzen Nature Centre (JJNC) demonstration bed. The bed will be closing because of construction which will start soon. The Compost School at the Nature Centre which is near our bed will be revamped; the new design incorporates the present bed into the new construction plan. 

It was raining on this evening but a quick visit allowed for the last picture to be taken, the heart-leaved alexanders blooming bravely despite it all. We would have had a major plant rescue at the bed but there was a risk of spreading lacebugs to the gardens of anyone who adopted the plants. Instead, we have made a small rescue of plants which we have moved to the Muttart Conservatory demonstration bed. We had lace bugs at the Muttart as well but we removed all of the affected species (sunflowers, asters, goldenrods). That means that there is no risk of the JJNC transplants introducing this leaf-sucking insect to the Muttart plants. We are hoping at some point to reintroduce the affected species to the Muttart bed.

The JJNC bed was established in 2004, by what was then called the Edmonton Naturalization Group, before I even knew native plants existed..The bed has been a terrific seed source for us through the years and has been a resource used by the staff of the Nature Centre to show native plants, bees, butterflies, and other bugs to the public. It has been tended on many Tuesday evenings (and at other times) by enthusiastic volunteers. Weeding, planting, and overhauls changed the bed's composition over time. Native plants have a way of telling you where they want to grow, and the bed was always changing in response to weather and other conditions. Thanks go out to the many people who have helped out over the years. 

An early interpretive sign indicated the species in the bed but sadly it was vandalized and not replaced. At one point we had many plant markers identifying the plants. Unfortunately signs and labels seldom outlive the plants. If there was one big challenge it was to keep signage in place. In the latter years we did not have any but the bed still was vital. Nowadays information on Edmonton native plants is available online and soon our website will have plant information on many species. 

A thank you to the City of Edmonton is in order for allowing us to access the space for all this time. We are grateful for relationships with the staff of the Compost School and the Nature Centre. We attended many events at the Nature Centre with our displays, and sometimes included a tour of the bed for the event attendees. In this way many people were introduced to native plants.

We continue to tend to the demonstration bed at the Muttart Conservatory, at the northwest corner of the parking lot. We also have restoration/demonstration beds at Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Area, a Nature Conservancy of Canada and Edmonton and Area Land Trust property, located between Edmonton and Devon.

Lace bugs, so called because of the adults’ large, lace-like wings, belong to a large family of insects that make their living by sucking the juices out of plant leaves. Our lace bugs are likely the chrysanthemum lace bug (Corythuca marmorata) which feeds on asters, sunflowers and goldenrods, particularly. Lace bugs are a fairly new problem in Edmonton, and as such they have no predators, so they multiplied rapidly when they first arrived in the JJNC demonstration bed. They don’t kill affected plants but can spread quickly to new plants. The species overwinters as adults in leaf litter and grasses, and lays eggs in early spring which mature into adults by June. There is usually a second generation before the insects go into hibernation in September. 

Chrysanthemum lace bugs feed on both surfaces of the leaf leaving tell-tale signs of yellow stippling on the leaves which later turn brown, as well as droplets of black frass. Check in spring for evidence of them. If an infestation shows signs of becoming severe, numbers can be reduced by the application of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. 

Information from David Kuack, University of Maryland Extension, on Greenhouse Management website.


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