- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It’s all about the hummingbirds and the bees for the flowers and the trees at Smithsonian Gardens. And bats and butterflies can join in, too.

The newly renamed Pollinator Garden focuses on the importance of pollination — and its players — in the life of an ecosystem, especially one vulnerable to degradation, pesticides and parasites.

Formerly called the Butterfly Habitat Garden, the 400-foot-long path includes more than 250 species of colorful and fragrant plants, flowers and trees. Its name change is Smithsonian Gardens’ response to President Obama’s 2014 memorandum to increase pollinator habitats.

“Pollinators are so important to our everyday life. We wouldn’t have the foods we have if it wasn’t for pollinators,” Gardens Director Barbara Faust said Tuesday during the unveiling of the newly named oasis.

Smithsonian Gardens collaborated with the Smithsonian Design Team for about eight months to create the 15 signs that provide information about the significant role of pollinators play in nature. The Pollinator Garden features hydrangeas, milkweed and a collection of other plants that benefit from the transfer of pollen provided by flying insects and small birds.

And sometimes the flora help the fauna with their own reproduction. Meghan McConnell, an entomology graduate student at the University of Maryland, has been raising awareness about extinct species in the Old Line State via a student group called PollinaTerps. She said the group started a GoFundMe campaign to grow and preserve white turtleheads, which resemble lilies, in Prince George’s County. The Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, the state insect of Maryland, relies on white turtleheads to lay its eggs.

Smithsonian Gardens interns have learned from their hands-on maintenance of the grounds and plants. Linda Cruz, 21, said she has seen the benefits of the Pollinator Garden’s mission.

“A lot of people assume only butterflies need help because of habitat destruction, but there are a lot of beneficial insects also being affected. I think the signs make you think it would be neat to see some insects in your own garden,” said Ms. Cruz, an agriculture major from Western Kentucky University.

During Tuesday’s unveiling, two University of Maryland faculty members set up a table with photos of various plants to show how visitors can help reduce the loss of habitats.

“If it can happen here in a sterile environment, then we can translocate that to our neighborhood,” plant pathologist David Clement said. “People can put these plants in their backyards or their decks.”

Smithsonian Gardens horticulturalist James Gagliardi hopes that raising awareness about pollinators will spur people to action.

“We want to make it appealing for everyone. We also don’t want to hide from some of the major issues about pollinators, like habitat fragmentation, pesticides, and stuff like that. We want to make sure we’re sending people out with the right knowledge,” Mr. Gagliardi said.

The Pollinator Garden sits adjacent to the National Museum of Natural History on Constitution Avenue NW. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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