All posts by Sherwood Forest

What ARE Native Plants, Anyway?

Forest Friends
What ARE Native Plants, Anyway?

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of native plants in Forest Friends, but exactly what they are may remain a mystery. Basically, native plants are those that have grown in a particular area for hundreds or thousands of years and are part of an ecosystem where plants and animals support each other.

One example: a white oak (native) hosts more than 500 insects as opposed to a ginkgo (exotic, native to the Far East) hosts only 5. You may think that is a good thing (no “pests”!), but native insects do not destroy native plants. They nibble at them enough to grow and the insects, in turn, are kept in balance by our native birds. A clutch of Carolina chickadees needs around 9000 caterpillars to grow to fledgling stage!

Most of the trees (e.g. oaks, hickories, wild cherries, river birch, pecans, and both loblolly and longleaf pines) in our neighborhood are native, which is why we have a wealth of birdlife. Most of our shrubbery, on the other hand, is exotic. Many folks think that traditional Carolina landscape plants (e.g. camellias, sasanquas, gardenias, boxwood, and evergreen azaleas) are native, but they are not. These plants are mostly from Japan and China and host few native insects.

Think instead of blueberries, yaupon holly, beautyberry, spice bush, wax myrtle, and native azaleas. These and many others support pollinators, who in turn support our birds. And, by the way, more birds mean healthier people! Read more about why native plants are better for birds and people at the Audubon website…

All of this does not mean you should rip out your non-native landscaping, or that nothing but 100 percent native landscaping will do. Exotic plants have a place and can add interest and beauty to your yard. But as non-natives age out, think of replacing them with natives. Or if you have a yard of mostly turf (non-native), think of adding some native trees and shrubs, grasses, and vines! And stay tuned in the coming months for information on our next native tree give-away.

Many organizations offer great lists of native plants by area, but here is one from the National Wildlife Federation…

Email Valerie Marcil at with questions.

To Mow or Not to Mow

You may have heard some of the buzz about No Mow May, which encourages homeowners with lawns to eliminate or reduce lawn mowing in the month of May to allow flowering plants in your grass to bloom to help support pollinators in the spring when sources of pollen are limited. Try it if you like, but an even better approach (for many reasons) is to begin to replace some of your turf with understory plants, and open pollinator gardens.

Understory plants are the small trees (like dogwoods) that love to live in the dappled shade of larger trees (the upper story), as well as native shrubs and perennials that thrive with a bit of shade.

If you have an open, sunny lawn, try adding a rain garden, a regular pollinator garden full of native perennials, or a sunny border garden full of native grasses and other plants. Taking these latter approaches can provide almost year round sources of pollen, seeds and berries for wildlife, while at the same time helping to improve absorption of rainwater, and reduce the pollution and chemicals needed to maintain a lawn.

This approach also allows you to maintain a tidy lawn where you really want some lawn, albeit a somewhat smaller lawn (phew! less mowing!).

Some links about alternatives to large lawns, and native plants to use instead:
How and why to reduce the area you mow – bit by bit…
Great resources from Clemson for creating rain gardens…
National Wildlife Federation plant finder for 29205 zip code…
SC Wildflower collections…

Email Valerie Marcil at with questions.

Landscaping for Pollinators

Forest Friends

Spring is a great time to think about complimenting the larger plants in our forest (trees), with shrubs and perennials that attract pollinators, and thus support our birds and other wildlife.

Pollinators also play a huge role in food production, so if you are a backyard vegetable gardener, the pollinators will make your vegetable garden more productive, too! And what you want mostly is native plants that support all stages of the pollinators.

The Upstate Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society assembled a list of native plants for wildlife, broken down by shade, sun, wet, and dry, and also by trees, shrubs, and perennials. Even though upstate plants are featured, many, if not most, can be grown in the Midlands:
Native Plants for Wildlife pdf…

Valerie Marcil

Keep the Trees in the Forest!

Forest Friends

In Sherwood Forest, we are grateful to celebrate that our neighborhood is considered an urban forest. Our neighborhood includes the 9-acre Belser Arboretum with its 130 foot high poplars and over 130 varieties of wooded plantings, including seven of Columbia’s Treasured Trees. This urban forest also shelters an abundance of wildlife.

And while we as a neighborhood association cannot enforce a tree removal policy for your personal property, we have some thoughts to share.

While we acknowledge that there are reasons for tree removal due to disease or damage we are against clear cutting on a property. We have compiled a shortlist of some of the benefits of trees in all stages of growth. If you still want to remove trees, we ask that you consult a certified arborist to speak about your safety concerns. Before you proceed make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded and insured.

And finally, do not remove any trees from the City right of way on your property or face serious fines. The City will be glad to remove diseased or dangerous trees on the right of way for you, and will provide a replacement tree, too.

Embrace our forest life!

Benefits of Native Trees…

Hurricane Michael Solid Waste Collections

Important message from City of Columbia:

Due to expected high winds from Hurricane Michael, the City of Columbia will be postponing solid waste collections for Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Thursday service areas for garbage, recycling and yard waste will be collected on Friday, October 12, 2018. Friday service areas will be collected on Saturday, October 13, 2018.

For non-emergency issues, please call 545-3300.