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Skaggs: Native plants can withstand drought

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Over the last two years, the lack of rain and resulting water restrictions have forced many gardeners to look at alternatives to the more common landscape plants used today. In their search, more and more gardeners are discovering the benefits of native plants.

Interest in native plants is not new, but is growing rapidly. Beginning gardeners are often amazed at the beauty and variety of Georgia's native plants. If you would like to learn more about native, a new pocket guide just developed by the University of Georgia is just for you.

This new field guide from the University of Georgia provides a pictorial hike through the Georgia mountains and includes detailed descriptions of native plants like Foam Flower, Showy Orchids, Pink Lady's Slipper and Nodding Trillium.

"Native Plants of North Georgia: A Pocket Guide for Plant Enthusiasts" was developed by UGA Cooperative Extension. The guide was created by Mickey Cummings, Union County Extension Coordinator.

The pocket-size publication, which sells for $7, includes 66 plants native to North Georgia. Each plant listing is accompanied by a photograph and a brief plant description including the common name, scientific name, leaf and flower descriptions, habitat and historical plant uses.

"There are a lot of books out there that are big and heavy," Cummings said. "We really needed something you could put in your back pocket or backpack."

Cummings' interest in plants was prompted by a family story about his grandmother who was healed of a life-threatening infection by native herbs. "That story has always been in the back of my mind," he said.

An interest in plants and a need to educate and inform the public about native plants was the driving force behind the guide, his first publication.

Cummings began taking pictures of native plants four years ago and was using them to teach programs to interested citizens at the Georgia Mountains Center. He has more than 600 students every year.

He recommends home landscapers bring the guide with them to garden centers to ensure they purchase appropriate landscape plants.

Cummings plans to publish a second volume, cataloging more native plant species. He's also planning one on shrubs.
The guide sold more than 100 copies the first week it was published. To order a copy, send a request and $7 check to the Office of Communications, 117 Hoke Smith Annex, Athens, GA 30602-4356, or call Karen Kelley at 706-542-2657 with credit card orders.

(Thanks to April Sorrow, UGA CAES News Editor and Mickey Cummings, Union County Extension Agent.)

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.


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