When we founded FOBP, we had our sights on restoration of a 44 acre park. We have worked hard to make Brightwood Park a destination for anyone seeking the sanctuary found in nature. In embracing our mission, we have discovered that what is happening in the park has a broader impact!
Our focus of returning biodiversity to the park has elevated consciousness of the importance of native plants to sustain life in a broader context. The park had been badly overrun by beautiful, but invasive, non-native plants. These plants are foreign to native insects and pollinators who evolved to live with native plants. For example, native insects developed special adaptations that allow their mouthparts to access flower nectar. These insects do not have adaptive features needed to feed on or live off non-native species.
Birds that depend on native insects have fewer egg clutches and fewer offspring that survive when native insects are not plentiful. Experts have expressed concern about the decline in songbird populations. Like the proverbial, “canary in a coal mine,” this decline is concerning for all life.
Park visitors who happen upon the Westfield Parks Invasive Plants volunteer strike team frequently stop to ask questions and learn about the threats to biodiversity from non-native plants. Through educational outreach and FOBP’s demonstration native plant gardens, we have begun a broader dialogue in the community about what is in the park and, importantly, what we all plant in our gardens. The rise in awareness of the need to plant native has fueled an increase in native plant orders that FOBP distributed as part of our support for the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s spring native plant sale. This spring, Westfield area residents accounted for the second highest sales (just behind Morristown)!
As we continue our efforts in Brightwood Park, we encourage everyone to rethink their home gardens and GO NATIVE!!