Posts Tagged 'plants'

How Does Our Garden Grow?

With the unusually mild winter, it appears that gardens, orchards, and fields along the East Coast are blossoming and producing earlier-than-usual crops. This includes the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park in front of the National Aquarium, Baltimore. Its greenery is particularly lush this year, and there are a lot of flowers and fruits for curious guests and foraging birds alike.

Bee Balm—Monarda didyma


Bee balm, or scarlet balm, is a shrub that grows on the edges or understory of forests throughout the eastern U.S. and Asia. Often used as an ornamental plant, its brilliant red chandelier-like bloom is a favorite for butterflies and hummingbirds. It also has strong medicinal properties and was relied on by Native Americans for its use as an antiseptic and a poultice for skin infections and wounds. They brewed its leaves and stems as a tea to treat mouth and throat infections, as well as gingivitis. Amazingly, bee balm is a proven natural source of the antiseptic thymol, an active ingredient in most commercial mouthwashes!

Pitcher Plants—Sarracenia purpurea


Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants often referred to as “flytraps.” The purple pitcher plant is native to Maryland and can be found in acidic bogs and marshes. Excellent for controlling pests such as flying insects, slugs, and snails, these plants use nectar and scent to lure their prey into their “pitcher death traps.”

The cylindrical “pitcher” has very smooth and slippery sides and fills with water. Insects attracted by the nectar walk into the slippery pitcher only to fall in and drown. The dead bugs are then liquefied and absorbed as food by special enzymes produced in the plant.

Pitcher plants are commonly used in herbal remedies for treating fevers and increasing fertility in women. An infusion of its roots was once used to treat smallpox.

Shadbush—Amelanchier arborea


The shadbush is laden with ripe berries, providing a much-needed source of food for both migrating and local birds.

The next time you find yourself walking in the Inner Harbor area, stop by and check out our fantastic assortment of native plants in the Waterfront Park!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Native Garden Planting at Pier 6 Pavilion

The National Aquarium, in partnership with Rams Head and the Pier 6 Concert Pavilion, recently converted an unused area of turf on the western slope of the pavilion into a native plant garden!

Before and after

This new garden will help filter runoff and provide food and habitat for local pollinators and birds, as well as educate concert-goers on how beautiful and carefree a bay-friendly garden can be. Kyle Muellhauser, owner of Rams Head and a big supporter of the National Aquarium, approached our Conservation team and asked if we would be interested in using the space for an educational display. As we discussed ideas, we focused on something that would be attractive to visitors and also could inspire them to look at their own yards in a new way.

By planting native plants at home, you are not only providing food and habitat for wildlife, you are also decreasing the amount of fertilizer, water, and time needed to create and maintain an attractive yard. We chose native, drought-tolerant plants that would add interest to the site and would need little long-term care. Included in the list of plants were black-eyed susans, Christmas ferns, tickseed, blazing stars, American holly, joe-pye weed, and bee balm.

Two staff horticulturists took the lead on the project and designed the garden. They used similar plants and ideas from our Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park, a much more extensive version of a Maryland native garden. By choosing species that are native to this area and are proven to thrive in downtown Baltimore, we can be assured that this new garden will continue to educate visitors for years to come. The next time you attend a concert at the Pier 6 Concert Pavilion, don’t forget to check out the garden to see what is in bloom and get inspired to create your own bay-friendly garden. Click here to get started with ideas!

The crew!

Masonville Cove Grass Plantings

Baltimore Harbor shorelines are looking a little greener thanks to the work of local students and community volunteers!  The National Aquarium partnered with the Maryland Port Administration, Living Classrooms Foundation, Maryland Environmental Service, and BayBrook Coalition to restore wetlands at Masonville Cove, near the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay neighborhoods of Baltimore City.

On May 14 and 15, more than 6,000 marsh grasses were planted by 187 fifth-grade students and chaperones from area schools at the Masonville Cove wilderness conservation area.  This is one small part of a large-scale environmental restoration of the entire cove, which is creating waterfront access in an area that was once an industrial site.

On May 18 and 19, a second portion of Masonville shoreline was planted with 17,000 wetland grasses!  The Aquarium first brought volunteers to this fringe wetland in October of 2011 to plant salt bush shrubs, and this recent planting completes the shoreline by filling in all of the tidal zones with the appropriate plants.  More than 112 volunteers helped with this effort, including groups from Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove, Baltimore Maritime Academy, Canton Kayak Club and more!

Interested in further volunteer opportunities regarding Masonville Cove? Come to an informational meeting about the Friends of Masonville Cove group on Thursday, May 31, at 5:30 p.m. at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center. Find out more information below:

Click here for more information about Masonville Cove, including community programming and additional volunteer opportunities. You can also follow Friends of Masonville Cove on Facebook for more information!

Baltimore’s hidden green gem

Did you know that part of the Aquarium’s roof is green? Five years ago this summer, during the Aquarium’s major building expansion, a green roof was installed on a portion of Pier 3 just behind the Australia exhibit.

Each spring the roof blooms into a lush, green landscape, and this year was no exception!

It was designed as an “extensive” green roof, which is virtually self-sustaining and requires minimum maintenance. “Intensive” green roofs, on the other hand, are more labor-intensive. A very thin layer of soil supports a variety of stonecrops (Sedum) and ornamental onions (Allium).

We believe this roof is one of Baltimore’s hidden gems. Green roofs provide many benefits to cities, especially during the dog days of summer. Traditional building materials soak up the sun’s radiation and re-emit it as heat, making cities 6-10°F hotter than surrounding areas. This is called the urban heat island effect. Our roof may be small, but we hope it is helping to alleviate some of the intense heat Baltimore City is experiencing this week!

The roofs also reduce heating and cooling loads on a building. A study conducted by Environment Canada found a 25% reduction in summer cooling needs and a 26% reduction in winter heat losses when a green roof is used.

Green roofs will also last up to twice as long as conventional roofs by protecting exterior roof membranes from UV radiation, extreme temperature fluctuations, and punctures.

These roofs even help the surrounding environment because they reduce stormwater runoff by acting as a sponge. It has been found that they can retain up to 75% of rainwater, gradually releasing it back into the atmosphere via condensation and transpiration, while filtering pollutants and heavy metals in their soil. Pollutants and carbon dioxide are also filtered out of the air.

Finally, green roofs provide habitat for plants, insects, and animals that otherwise have limited natural space in cities. Rooftop greenery complements wild areas by providing “stepping stones” for songbirds, migratory birds, and other wildlife facing shortages of natural habitat.


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