5 Pollinator Plants with Medicinal Properties

Stepping into a garden, there is an automatic hushed peace that comes with something that does not move or react as quickly as the constant paging through television channels or endless scrolling with which we have become accustomed. Instead, the growth of plants occurs at a diligent pace where our eyes are fooled into believing that there is no movement or change, only for us to wake up and be surprised by the beautiful magenta crowns of Bee balm. When you listen closely, you can hear the hum of productivity in the garden that comes from the whir of bees wings. Hearing a hummingbird for the first time in the season requires a moment of pause, as their powerful and quick wing strokes almost sound like a enormous wasp, only to be surprised by the glossy emerald or regal ruby throat of a tiny bird. In such a garden, where particular plants are selected for flowers that are elevated and easy to drink nectar or to gather golden puffs of pollen from, pollinators are healthy and abundant. Such plants are a boon for moths, butterflies, bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds. While watching the expeditious work of the honeybee and the purposeful but lilting routine of the butterfly is certain reward enough for having such plants, the stalks and flowers that are in a pollinator garden often have hidden healing properties with a history that goes back to the early Americas when Native Americans would harness such properties. Today is the last day of National Pollinator Week, a time of being able to learn more about how to help our honeybees and butterflies, but we also wanted to provide you with information for five pollinator plants that also have medicinal properties.

MOUNTAIN MINT 
We will start with the unassuming, even meek mountain mint. Huddling together in clusters, the shy and small flowers of mountain start a light green and blossom into a linen white or soft lilac color. While delicate, even doily-like n appearance, these flowers were believed to have the power and strength to revive the dead. Their flowers and leaves are edible either raw or cooked and taste of an intense heat that comes with such a strong mint flavor, almost menthol-like in its strength. Tea can be created from it with analgesic, antiseptic, and tonic properties that can help with maladies from menstrual pain to coughs to colds to fevers. Even the worst case of chiggers will yield to the powerful aromatic qualities of this small plant. It easily helps fill your home with its minty aroma when dried and burned with incense or in a sage bundle. Mountain mint is a wonderful starter to any pollinator garden as it is easily grown, preferring to look towards the sun and enjoys a drier spot in the garden.

CARDINAL FLOWER

With stunning scarlet petals, the Cardinal flower stands as a crimson sentry over the other shrubs that may surround. Its regal appearance matches its namesake, which comes from the crimson cloaks of Roman Catholic priests. The Iroquois, Delaware, Cherokee, and Meskwaki tribes used this showy plant both ceremonially and medicinally. Its medicinal powers are either derived from its roots or its leaves. The roots have impressive antispasmodic properties, able to halt bronchial spasms when smoked at the first sign of discomfort. Furthermore, it has been used for treatment of epilepsy, syphilis, typhoid, stomachaches, cramps, and worms. Its leaves are long and thin, and when made into tea help treat croup, nosebleeds, colds, fevers, and headaches.

BEE BALM/WILD BERGAMOT

A number of pollinator friendly plants have stunning purple, red, and pink colors that make them so attractive to the senses of hummingbirds and bees. Bee balm is another flower to have easily accessible blossoms of such radiance. When making a salad on a summer day, you can include the edible flowers of bee balm as a festive garnish. A source of oil and thyme, bee balm is fragrant and an inspiring addition to aromatic and medicinal teas. This is truly the idel plant to grow in the Carolinas as it enjoys heavy clay soils, though it does require partial shade. If you are growing the red variety, it was known as Oswego tea and was used by colonists in place of English tea. Native Americans recognized that the four varieties of bee balm had different odors and was used as a sweat inducer for ceremonial sweat lodges as well as for its healing properties. The flowers and stems can be used for antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, and stimulant properties and help with lowering fevers, soothing sore throats, treating colds, and helping with other inflammation related illnesses. It can also be used externally for infections.

ECHINACEA

As the author I want to interject that purple coneflower or Echinacea is truly my favorite of the pollinator plants that also have medicinal properties for humans. It looks hostile with its large, bristling cone with a skirt of fluorescent purple petals, but is a pillar to herbal healing. Its use dates back to Native Americans observing that when elk were wounded or sick, they would seek out and consume the Echinacea plant. Since then, Plains Indians used Echinacea to treat anthrax and snakebites, the Kiowa and Cheyenne tribes used the flower for coughs and sore throat, and the Sioux tribes used it as a painkiller. Scientific studies confirm that Echiancea actively boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and helps hormonal and viral disorders. Of all the plants to have in your herbal medicine cabinet, this is truly as close as you can get to a panacea. 

AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY

As nature changes from its summer to autumnal wardrobe, the American Beautyberry is truly the statement piece with bold magenta berries that look like beads strung together to form necklaces and bracelets. These berries emerge from delicate, lacey flowers that are rose-tinted and small, clinging to its stem. Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole, and other Native American tribes have used it as an insect repellant, the root and leaf for sweat baths to treat fevers and malaria, and the root for dysentery and stomach aches. Science has confirmed the folk usage of this plant through finding it indeed has compounds that repel mosquitoes and other biting insects.

            A pollinator garden is versatile, like much of nature, and can provide so many things for those who take the time to grow them. It will help your raised bed of squash and tomatoes, provide a safe haven and place to feed for our pollinators that are becoming increasingly challenged by human development, and can also be your medicine cabinet for making teas, tinctures, and a fresh, flowery snacks with benefits abound. Looking across the garden now, you can hear the beating of a hummingbird’s wings, and the colorful robes of the butterflies that move from flower to flower. A mixture of lacey, white flowers and bold, impressive fronds of scarlet and crimson petals, these plants have grown from this earth and provided medicinal help to people who have lived on the same land for hundreds of years. Just as the honeybee can get pollen from the flowers, you too can improve your life and health from growing these pollinator friendly plants in your own garden.

Planting Flowers with our Father’s- Bethesda Elementary School Pollinator Garden

Last month we went all out to celebrate Mother’s Day – taking the time to appreciate our own mothers and mother earth. That said, we cannot forget about the fathers and father figures in our lives! On June 21st, we celebrate all the great dads on Father’s Day.

In honor of Father’s Day – we wanted to share our experience planting a garden with an amazing group of dads and their kids at Bethesda Elementary School. This group of fathers inspired us, watching them serve as role models in their children's life while they volunteered their time to work alongside their kids to beautify the school grounds.

On May 20th, Keep Durham Beautiful partnered with Bethesda Elementary School and the EPA to plant a school pollinator garden as part of the All Pro Dad’s Breakfast. The All Pro Dad’s Breakfast program is coordinated by the school’s Family Community Specialist, Byron Judd, with the goal of creating strong bonds between the Bethesda students and their fathers or father figures. This was an exciting and meaningful project that gave back to the community and helped to beautify the school. Keep Durham Beautiful was honored to be part of this project that created a new BEEutiful pollinator habitat in Durham and provided an important opportunity for dads to build stronger relationships with their kids.

Nine dads and their 13 kids joined us on the sunny Saturday morning eager to plant. The day consisted of learning about pollinators, weeding, mulching, pruning, and planting 150 plants. The plants consisted of annual and perennial flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and birds. It was rewarding to witness the interaction between dads and their kids, most notably how the fathers helped the kids learn proper planting techniques. Another memorable moment was when the dads chipped in money for purchasing additional mulch; they did it without any hesitation and with the desire to make their kid’s school look beautiful. All the dads and kids worked together as a team and were extremely proud of their work and the appearance of their school. Thank you to all the dads that serve as role models to their children.

Happy Father’s Day!

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr

Volunteering with family, friends, peers, and co-workers helps to strengthen bonds. Together we can make the bonds in our community stronger and make Durham beautiful!

Interested in volunteering with us? Fill out this short form and expect a KDB team member to contact you shortly. 

Daniel Dinkin’s Volunteer Experience

As someone who initially moved to the triangle area to attend UNC Chapel Hill, I found that I didn’t have time to get as involved with the community as I wanted due to school. However, I was always motivated to volunteer, both to meet people who share the same interest as I and to be part of a bigger cause. I volunteered with several organizations in Chapel Hill but I was still looking to get involved with an environmentally focused nonprofit.Once I learned of Keep Durham Beautiful, I decided to check out some of the volunteer events and I was happily surprised.

Daniel unloading tires at the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive

My first volunteer event was the ReUse Rodeo where I served as a greeter who handed out goody bags filled with resources and tax return forms. This event encouraged locals to donate used clothing, books etc. I learned that there are many community organizations and non-profits who can utilize donations. This was also the first time I met the KDB personnel, Britt Huggins and Monica Ospina, who were extremely welcoming and immediately made me feel like I was part of the family. Their warm welcome, compounded with the cause that Keep Durham supported and the things I was learning fueled my interest to volunteer at other events as well.

My second volunteer experience was at the Durham Earth Day Festival, which brought awareness to the issues of sustainable resources and cleanliness of the environment. I was a Waste Warrior where I was at a station with three bins: trash, compost and recycling. I directed festival goers to dispose of their waste accordingly. While volunteering, I connected with another volunteer who was a former soccer player at UNC and works for a compost organization. She opened my eyes about the importance of compost and how integral it was to keep a clean environment. I was also surprised to learn that most of the things we consider trash can be easily composted.

The third event I was a part of was I love Durham Limpio- which consisted of working with Latino’s and non-Latino’s to remove litter in areas around Durham. We collected approximately 2,000 lbs. of litter. It was interesting to see how much of the litter we gathered were recyclables.

The last event I was part of was the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive. There I met other volunteers, Ian and Anna, as well as an individual who worked with the Durham Public Health Department. He informed me that standing water in tires is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, which was often asymptomatic and can be sexually transmitted. I also learned about the closed landfill that was nearby and how costly it was to maintain and treat trash.

Through my volunteer experience with Keep Durham Beautiful I have learned so much about the environment and not only how to keep Durham beautiful but how to also make conscious decisions in my own household. I found myself figuring out how to compost some materials from my trash and how to properly recycle. I learned of this organization through a friend, who is part of the YNPN mailing list and it’s hard to say if I would have known of it otherwise.

Celebrate Earth Month with Keep Durham Beautiful!

Earth Day is fast-approaching. Do you know how you’re celebrating? Consider joining Keep Durham Beautiful for one or more of our events this month!

April 22, 8am-2pm: Gather up your unwanted household goods for Durham’s first annual ReUse Rodeo! On Saturday, April 22nd, we will be accepting gently used books, clothing, furniture, working electronics, household appliances, cookware, tools, craft supplies, and more, to be donated to area non-profits and distributed back into the community. A complete list can be found on the event page. Paper shredding and e-recycling will also be available. Clear up your household clutter, help the earth, and give your gently used items a new life! The event will be held in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Lakewood at 2050 Chapel Hill Road. Want to help out at the inaugural Reuse Rodeo? Sign up to volunteer!

April 23, 12pm-5pm: Join us for Durham’s Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 23rd! Participants will enjoy green activities and demos, learn about sustainable practices and products at the Sustainability Expo and Earth Day Market, enjoy great music and food, and much more! The festival will take place at Durham Central Park at 501 Foster Street. To learn more, visit the event page. Interested in helping out? We are looking for waste warriors to help with recycling and composting at the event. Sign up to volunteer today!

April 27, 8am-2pm: The Community Appearance and Litter Index is a quantitative assessment used across the nation to gauge roadside litter levels. Volunteers from the community receive training and then drive set routes in Durham to conduct a visual inspection of litter levels and help identify future clean-up sites. Sign up with your friends and help us make Durham a cleaner community! Breakfast and lunch are available for all volunteers. More information is available on the event page.

April 29, 9am-1pm: We are bringing I Love Durham Limpio back! We are teaming up with Durham community partners to do an extensive litter cleanup with ALL members of the community. The purpose of this volunteer opportunity is for Durham community members to join forces by giving back to their community while learning about the environment and the resources Durham offers. We’d love for you to join us on April 29th from 9am-1pm! Don’t forget to bring your old shower heads to be traded in for NEW water efficient ones. Please visit the I Love Durham Limpio event page to view more information.

Get Your Hands Dirty For Spring

The birds will start chirping and the bees will start buzzing soon! It’s time for us to go outdoors and start working on our gardens. If you are new to gardening and are planning to start your own veggie garden, we have some tips for you:

  • Your garden should receive a minimum of 6 hours of sun per day, 8-10 hours is ideal
  • Your garden should be located near your house (this will make you use it!)
  • Your soil should be fertile and easy to till. Loose, well-drained loam are preferable; sandy and clay soils are fine as long as you add organic matter 
  • Avoid soggy soils that remain wet after it rains
  • Your garden needs 1″ of water/week. Please water in addition to rain
  • Your garden should have good air drainage- should be on high ground
  • and the FUN part-plan what type of veggies you want to grow
  • Start planting after the LAST frost date- April 13th 
  • Be prepared to dedicate half an hour of work per day to your garden

If a veggie garden isn’t your thing, you can plant a flower garden. Keep in mind to plant native species. Native species are accustomed to the soil, climate, and water conditions of their habitat. They will also require less maintenance than non-natives and will attract native species!

For a list of native flowers, ferns, grasses, rushes, and sedges visit the North Carolina Botanical Garden at UNC 

For more information on gardening, please visit NC State Cooperative Extension  site. 

East Durham Children Help Pollinators while Learning about Food Production

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Keep Durham Beautiful AmeriCorps Member, Monica Ospina, teaching 3rd graders at Spring Valley Elementary School about the important role pollinators play in our food production.

This fall, Keep Durham Beautiful partnered with East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) to educate East Durham 4th and 5th graders about the importance of pollinators. These young students are enrolled in the East Durham Youth Health Leadership Council (YLC) Program.

The purpose of EDCI’s Youth Health Leadership Council Program is to inspire, educate, and empower youth to become advocates for health and wellness within their community. The program provides training and leadership development opportunities for East Durham children. The training that is provided for the youth empowers them to lead the design and implementation of a community-based health intervention project, with the following core topics: leadership development, nutrition and healthy eating, health disparities, and physical activity.

One topic that interested EDCI was the connection between pollinators and food. At Keep Durham Beautiful, we found this to be an excellent opportunity to educate these young leaders about the relationship between pollinators and our current food system. Pollinators help plants to reproduce by carrying pollen from one plant to the other. It’s crucial to understand the process of how a berry becomes a berry (just to name a beloved fruit) and the key role pollinators play in that process.Experts calculate that pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 mouthfuls of drink or food that Americans consume.
The children learned that populations of pollinators, in particular bees, have been in decline in recent years due to pesticide use and habitat loss. However, as gloomy as that may be, we wanted to remind the kids that they play a vital role in helping to protect our pollen-loving friends! The youngsters learned that they can help raise awareness, advocate for pollinator-friendly gardens and habitat preservation, and decrease our use of pesticides.

To make the lesson hands-on, we planted pollinator-friendly seeds in Sub Irrigated Planters (SIP’s) also known as “self-watering plants.” The SIP’s were created with recycled 16 oz. water bottles that were collected from the City of Durham’s General Services Department. We also gave the kids extra pollinator friendly seeds, so that they can plant more at home. They were excited to help plant the seeds and advocate for pollinators.

Once the kids finish all of their training they will design and implement a project of their choice, if they decide to plant a pollinator garden in their school or community, Keep Durham Beautiful will be excited to guide them through the process.

More information on how to create your own SIP: http://www.brooklynseedcompany.com/how-to-make-a-plastic-bottle-sip/

Field Trip: Where Does Our Recycling Go?

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On Wednesday, November 16th, twenty-one of us took a trip to North Raleigh to visit the Sonoco Recycling Center. It was a great experience for us to learn about what happens to our recycling after being picked up by the truck.

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It all starts here at the transfer station. This location in Durham is where both recycling and garbage trucks come deposit what they picked up from our curbs. Their contents are dumped into trailers and hauled to their perspective locations.

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The machine pictured is responsible for sorting all our recyclables. It is called the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). The feed all the recycling into the MRF where the sorting begins.

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We all had a lot of questions for our tour guide Cesar. He answered a lot of misconceptions about what happens to our recycling and surprised us with how the market of recyclables works. He explained how the materials went through the system, were sorted, and then shipped to other locations and made into packaging for products we use every day.

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All our recyclables heading up the conveyor belt to get sorted!

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This belt separates the paper products from the glass, aluminum and plastics. Then they are sent to the respective locations to be bailed and prepped for shipment.

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Here workers are doing a quality control check get any debris or garbage that may till be mixed in with the aluminum.

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Here are all our recyclables bailed and ready to be shipped out to other locations to be remade into new packaging. As you can see this place is a very busy facility that works 24/7 to sort out our waste and keep it from landfills.

We want to thank Sonoco and their employees for being such great hosts. We all learned a lot from the visit. Thanks to Oscar Lyons and Patricia Fossum of Durham Sold Waste Management. Oscar got us to and from the locations safely, and Patricia showed us around the Durham transfer site. Also, thank you to Chelsea Arey of Wake Solid Waste Management for helping to coordinate the visit.

 

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Trees

thankful-tree-giveaway-2016Durham residents are encouraged to register for a free tree as part of the Give Thanks: 2016 Keep Durham Beautiful Tree Giveaway and Food Drive

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s not too early to start reflecting on things we are thankful for. From providing the clean air and oxygen we appreciate during our outdoor fall activities to producing apples for that delicious apple crisp our neighbor makes– trees should be added to your list of things to give thanks for this November. While there are many reasons to be thankful for trees, here our 10 of our favorite motivations for planting, caring for, and protecting Durham’s trees:

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Trees:

  1. Trees reduce violence: Studies have shown that barren neighborhoods and homes have a greater incidence of violence than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.
  2. Trees conserve energy: Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. Reducing the energy demand for cooling saves money and reducescarbon dioxide and other pollution emissions.
  3. Trees cool the streets and the city: Trees cool a city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.Trees bring diverse groups of people together: Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.
  4. Trees provide oxygen: In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
  5. Trees provide economic benefits: The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent. Similar benefits are seen in business districts; studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in.
  6. Trees combat the greenhouse effect: Trees absorb CO2, a major greenhouse gas, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.
  7. Trees clean the air: Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
  8. Trees help prevent soil erosion and water pollution: Trees reduce and slow runoff, holding soil in place and helping filter water naturally.
  9. Trees provide food: An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on a small urban lot. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food and habitat for birds and wildlife.

Help spread the love for trees:

Help spread the love for trees by joining us for our Give Thanks: 2016 Keep Durham Beautiful Tree Giveaway. Thanks to a generous donation from Alliance for Community Trees, Keep Durham Beautiful will be handing out 300 trees for Durham City and County residents this fall. To learn more about the tree species available and giveaway pre-registration, visit: www.keepdurhambeautiful.org/treegiveaway2016

Food Day and Pollinators

Pollinators support this message

We support Food Day held on October 24th because it helps to raise awareness on our current food system and promotes healthier diets. When I think of a healthy diet, I think of scrumptious vegetables and sweet juicy fruits along with sustainable farming practices. Sustainable farming practices take into account environmental preservation and limit the use of pesticides, which pollute the environment and are responsible for the decline in pollinator populations.

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Pollinators play an integral role in our food system and we can thank them because they help provide 1 out of 3 bites of food we consume each day. In the US more than 150 crops are dependent on pollinators; this includes most fruits and grain crops.

Flowers have evolved an ingenious way to reproduce by attracting pollinators to carry their pollen. Pollinators are attracted to flowers due to their scent, vivid colors, or their sweet nectar. Once the pollinator lands on one flower it gets covered in pollen and then carries it to the next flower to pollinate it. After the flower has been pollinated fruits containing seeds are formed, these fruits will be picked by farmers and end up in our markets where you and I will enjoy them.

So, on Food Day, let’s eat healthier and support sustainable practices in our food system, for pollinators’ sake!

 

To learn more about pollinators:

http://keepdurhambeautiful.org/programs/healthybeehealthyme/

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You and Your Child Get Better With Nature

Part of being an adult is having a busy life. There is work, social, and family obligations that keep most of us racing around like we are on a java-fueled bender. When we finally get a moment to relax, we typically pull out our phones to find out how our friends are coping with their equally busy lives. So it is not surprising that our children, who learn through mimicry, tend to do the same things with their electronics. So as adults we need to make an effort to teach our children better habits.

Family Using Electronics on Sofa

Family Using Electronics on Sofa

Science shows that both children and adults benefit greatly from spending time outside. Research has shown repeatedly that time spend outside leads to better health, improved cognitive ability, increased focus, and decreased levels of stress and anxiety. All these benefits can be gained just by ditching the cell phones and tablets for a family walk in the woods. There are also other ways it helps with your child’s development, such as free play.

Those of us that grew up before the Internet was everywhere will be familiar with the concept of free play. Essentially, free play was all the times you went out with your siblings or friends and made up games to play. Studies have found that free play is disappearing from children’s lives and being replaced with structured activities. The problem is that with all these structured activities, children are not learning how to be self-starters. In 2014 the University of Colorado conducted a study that found that kids who spent more time in free play had higher levels of executive function, or the ability to organize, plan, and achieve goals.

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Other studies have found that people (children included) who experience a sense of awe by viewing vast open landscapes are able to think more creatively. Researchers believe looking down from a mountaintop or over a vast expanse opens the brain up to seeing problems from new and different angles. This along with correlating research that shows that unplugging from technology and hiking through nature enhances higher order thinking.

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Finally, there are the therapeutic aspects of time spent in nature. According to a 2010 University of Essex study, five minutes of exercise in nature is just as effective as medication for some mental health issues. This new idea of using nature for therapy is called Ecotherapy and it is gaining a lot of traction. Outdoor activities are now being prescribed to veterans to help treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, regular exercise is a great tool to lower anxiety levels in people.

For more information see:

http://www.takeachildoutside.org/