The Maryland Native Plant Society

The Maryland Native Plant Society



White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra): Optimal Nutrition for Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies

Anngely Leeds – PhD Student – Georgetown University

White turtlehead is the native host plant for Maryland’s declining state insect, the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. Outside of Maryland, some populations use non-native English plantain as an alternative, suboptimal host plant. Through gene expression analysis and measuring larval performance, we aim to understand why white turtlehead provides better nutrition.

Comparing the effects of tree architecture on recruitment of leaf-tying caterpillars, tree-level herbivory, and arthropod diversity

Emma Lederer – PhD Student – Georgetown University

Many native Maryland trees host a subtle but ecologically important group of shelter-building caterpillars. The presence of shelters increases the abundance and diversity of arthropods on trees, which in turn feed higher trophic levels and build resilient forests. I study how plant architecture affects the assemblage of these unique communities.

How is saltwater intrusion shaping the morphology and interactions of Maryland’s native coastal plants?

Juan Martínez – PhD Student – George Washington University

Saltwater intrusion threatens coastal ecosystems, exposing forests to novel stress conditions. Salinity impacts plant performance, but it also may change the interactions of plants with their neighbors in intricate ways. Here, I explore Maryland's flora responses to saltwater intrusion through functional trait analysis and quantification of mutualistic associations with mycorrhizae.

Use of confamilial invasive and native vines by a specialist arthropod and its parasitoids

Brady Thexton – PhD Student – Georgetown University

I aim to understand how local insect communities are responding to porcelain berry, an invasive plant that poses significant harm to Maryland’s native flora. I will characterize the unreported host shift of a native grape-feeding specialist herbivore and determine if the associated parasitoid community can successfully hunt caterpillars on the novel host.

Seed Dormancy and Germination Rates of Asclepias incarnata

Maxwell Mitchell – Undergraduate – College of Southern Maryland

Swamp Milkweed is a native larval host of Monarch butterflies. Examining the physical properties of the seeds and their reactions to different treatments will determine the type of seed dormancy and best method for propagation. Seed treatments include: cold stratification, gibberellic acid, heat shocking, or abrasion of the seed coat.


Mycorrhizal fungi as mediators of flooding and sea level rise effects in a coastal forest.

Melissa McCormick, Anya Hopple, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Sea-level rise, salinization, and storm surge are major threats to coastal forests. We leverage an ecosystem scale water addition experiment to identify effects of fresh- and estuarine-water flooding on plants and their mycorrhizal fungi. This project will improve understanding of plant resiliency and identify coastal forest mitigation potential in Maryland.

Field census and conservation genetic analysis of S1/S2 Ozark Milkvetch (Astragalus distortus; Leguminosae) in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Andrea Weeks, George Mason University

Research will resolve fundamental questions about the taxonomy, historical biogeography and conservation genetics of the imperiled perennial legume, Ozark Milkvetch (Astragalus distortus) native to the mid-Atlantic and south-central US. All historical locations of the species in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia will be censused to update its S1/S2 conservation rankings.

Genetic mechanisms of heavy metal tolerance of serpentine and non-serpentine populations of Arabidopsis lyrate subspecies lyrata.

Maren Veatch-Blohm, Reginald Shardow, Loyola University Maryland

We propose to gain a better understanding of heavy metal response in plants by comparing gene expression among populations of Arabidopsis lyrata, which grow on serpentine and non-serpentine soils in Maryland. The AtSAP10 is our gene of focus because of its documented connection to plant tolerance to nickel and zinc.

Ask A Bumble Bee!

Jenan El-Hifnawi, USGS/ FWS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Ask A Bumble Bee is a highly-accessible community science project exploring bumblebee floral preference. Participants “ask” bumble bees what flowers they prefer by wandering for 30 minutes while tallying visitation to all blooming flower species they pass. Funding will support the development of a unique survey site: a garden with 2022’s top plants.


The reproductive biology of Maryland Rhododendron and its use for conservation

Dr. Anahí Espíndola, University of Maryland, College Park

Within the general goal of integrating ecological/evolutionary data to inform the conservation of native North American Rhododendron, this proposal will investigate the reproductive biology of several Maryland species. This will be used to predict their ecoevolutionary trajectories and conservation needs in the context of climate change.

Seed Germination in Polygala species

Susan McIntyre, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Illinois Natural History Survey)

I will investigate seed germination for milkwort (Polygala) species that are of conservation concern due to habitat loss in parts of their range and lack of success in restorations. I will test whether application of different germination treatments (e.g., cold stratification, heat, smoke) and certain soil mixes improve germination.

Parasitism-mutualism continuum in coastal tree forests under extreme climate events

Dr. Lorena Torres-Martínez, St Mary’s College of Maryland

Physiological stresses imposed by extreme climate conditions will weaken plant defenses, potentially leading to higher infection rates of pathogenic soil microbes, and disruption of mutualistic interactions. We will evaluate whether plant species already adapted to stressful climate regimes such as coastal wetland trees will experience these shifts in plant-microbe interactions

Plant-microbial interactions across the season and in response to management

Dr. Abigail Kula, Mount St. Mary’s University

Common milkweed is important to monarch butterfly populations. Understanding the impacts of land management on milkweed will inform future management and conservation strategies. Root microbial communities are essential for plants, but we know little about the milkweed root microbiome and its response to changing environmental conditions, including land management application.


Impact of Floodplain Reconnection on Hydrochory with Varying Levels of Urbanization

Sara Kramer – Graduate Student - Towson University

Urbanization increases the amount of impervious surface in watersheds, causing faster runoff into the stream and resulting in stream channel entrenchment. Thus, the floodplain is inundated less frequently, decreasing hydrochory (seed dispersal via water) which will reduce reestablishment by native vegetation. The effect of stream restoration on hydrochory and native plant colonization will be evaluated.

Influence of altered thermal regimes on fitness of an invasive grass Microstegium vimineum

Jeffrey Lombardo – Faculty - St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Climate change related increases in growing season temperature has been predicted to differentially influence fitness of invasive vs. native plants. For many important invasive plant species, the magnitude of these effects are unknown. Here, we quantify important fitness components of the invasive grass Microstegium vimineum under different experimental warming treatments.

How do orchid pollinators vary among sites in Maryland?

Monica Marcelli – Graduate Student - George Mason University

Pollinators are important for plant reproduction and evolution. Many of Maryland’s native orchids have unknown pollinators or pollinators known from very limited sites. We will use daylight and night (infrared) motion-triggered cameras to determine how orchid pollinators differ among sites in Maryland and identify pollinators for orchids without known pollinators.

Deciphering signaling between orchid host plants and mycorrhizae.

Eranga Wettewa – Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow - Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Among types of mycorrhizae, the orchid mycorrhizal association (OMA) is one of the least studied. I will utilize genome and transcriptome data to characterize signaling molecules involved in OMA for five Maryland orchids. This work will enhance understanding of OMA and facilitate restoration of native orchids and their mycorrhizal associates.

Engaging Citizen Scientists to identify native plants that support the greatest diversity of parasitic wasps

Madeline Potter – Graduate Student - University of Maryland, College Park

Citizen Scientist volunteers across Maryland will aid in identifying native trees and shrubs that support the greatest abundance and diversity of egg parasitic wasps. Results will allow recommendations of native plants that enhance the biological control of pests, reducing pest outbreaks in managed systems using sustainable practices.


An Overview of Pollination Ecology in Maryland's Serpentine Grasslands

Eric Crandell, Undergraduate, University of Maryland, College Park

Abstract: We hope that a grant of $1112.33 will assist us in the completion of research on the pollination network of the rare and protected Maryland Serpentine Grasslands. It is believed that deeper knowledge of this habitat’s ecological mechanisms would be pivotal in informing conservation efforts for the habitat and some of its endemic species.

Restoring Historic Valley-Bottom Wetlands: Native Plants, Education, and Pollution Reduction

Margaret Christie, Faculty, McDaniel University

Abstract: In the 18th century, Maryland was deforested for agriculture and dams were built to power mills, converting wetlands into deep-channeled streams. Restoration of wetlands allows them to perform ecosystem services and provides habitat for native plants. I will restore two wetland ecosystems in Carroll County to its pre-settlement extent.

Effect of Elevated CO2 and Drought on Physiology, Productivity and Interaction of Two Native Grasses of Maryland

Smriti Pehim Limbu, Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins University

Abstract: Elevated CO2 and drought predicted with climate change are likely to affect plant growth, and survival. We propose to assess the photosynthetic rate and biomass of two C4 grass under elevated CO2 and drought stress to shed a light on the fate of these grasses under the changing climate.

Will Maryland's Salt Marshes Continue to Thrive in a Warmer Climate?

Kerrie Sendall, Assistant Professor, Rider University

Abstract: Salt marsh ecosystems are some of the most vulnerable to climate change, with sea level rise- and temperature-induced marsh dieback occurring worldwide. Thus, it is critical to determine which marsh plant species are most resilient to climate change stressors, which will be useful to land managers involved in restoration projects.


Parthenocissus quinquefolia: a potential 'workhorse plant' for coastal restoration.

Amy Gage, graduate student, Rutgers University.

Abstract: I will plant Parthenocissus quinquefolia vines sourced from a variety of habitats into test plots on coastal sand dunes. This experiment will determine if P. quinquefolia vines should be included in coastal restoration plantings. It may also result in the discovery of rare coastal P. quinquefolia ecotypes.

Fungal Interactions as drivers of evolution and speciation in Maryland orchids.

Ida Hartvig, Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Abstract: The ecology and evolution of orchids are effected by their obligate dependency of specific fungi for germination. This project investigates the evolutionary patterns of fungal use in native species in the orchid genus Platanthera and will improve our understanding of orchid biology of benefit to conservation of Maryland orchids.

The hidden half of nitrogen fixation: Are the ecological impacts of nitrogen-fixing bacteria driven by the diversity of their symbiotic bacteria?

Benton Taylor, Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Abstract: Maryland’s nitrogen-fixing plants and their bacterial symbionts can dramatically alter the fertility of the surrounding ecosystem, but what drives nitrogen fixation rates in these plants is poorly understood. This project will investigate whether the diversity or identity of nitrogen fixers’ bacterial symbionts determines the amount of nitrogen these plant bring into Maryland’s ecosystems.

The genomics of beech tree defense and the spread of beech bark disease in Maryland.

Samantha Worthy, graduate student, University of Maryland

Abstract: Fagus grandifolia, a staple tree in Maryland forest, is threatened by Beech bark disease (BBD). The conferring defense gene against BBD has been identified, but not assayed broadly in natural populations. Here, I quantify defense gene genotypes across ontogeny to understand the impact of BBD on Maryland forests.

The effects of lead on leaf traits, distribution, and population genetics of native and introduced Plantago spp.

Eric Yee, graduate student, Johns Hopkins University

Abstract: Industrialization has caused heavy metal contamination in cities like Baltimore, MD, which is highly toxic to most organisms. Introduced plantain species (Plantago spp.) hyperaccumulate heavy metals like lead in their tissues. Morphological, reproductive, and genetic trade-offs from hyperaccumulation could have allowed them to outcompete native plantains in cities.


Are leaf gas exchange rates in salt marsh plants altered by experimental field warming and elevated CO2?

Lyntana Brougham, graduate student at Southern Georgia University.

Abstract: We aim to quantify the effects of experimental warming and elevated CO2 concentrations on the physiology of two communities of native, salt marsh plants in Edgewater, MD. We expect our results to illuminate how the function and growth of these important species will change in the future.

Do diverse vs. monoculture tree neighborhoods change caterpillar host use of native trees?

Karin Burghardt, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Abstract: Maryland's forests are increasingly fragmented and altered by human development. Here, I aim to determine if changes in the way that managers plant native host trees (single species vs diverse assemblages) could be used to maximize the support of butterfly and moth diversity within such landscapes.

Leaf Microbes and Chemistry: Assessing how changes in native tree diversity affect trophic interactions and plant productivity.

Eric Griffin, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Abstract: I propose to use an experimental manipulation of native tree diversity in Maryland to determine how leaf bacteria and chemistry mediate the relationship between tree diversity and plant productivity. Results from this ongoing project will provide a general framework for understanding how decreases in plant diversity will influence forest health.

Understanding the Link Between Herbivores and Native Plant Communities

Kathryn M. Jones and Andrew P. Landsman

Abstract: Herbivores are closely tied to the native plants they depend on for food and habitat. Exotic plants are documented throughout Maryland’s forests and have been shown to negatively affect insect herbivore communities. This project will fund a student to examine the importance of native plants to local herbivorous insect taxa.

Effects of fungal endophyte inoculation on salinity tolerance of native and invasive Phragmites australis.

Martina G. Mateu, graduate student University of MD College Park

Abstract: We propose to study the effects of fungal endophytes on salinity tolerance of native and invasive Phragmites australis. Our goal is to identify possible mutualists that could improve the tolerance of the native lineage to higher salinities, and assess the role of these endophytes in the spread of invasive Phragmites.

Ecological impacts of a potentially invasive plant: Miscanthus sinensis

Margaret Park, graduate student, Towson University

Abstract: Japanese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis) has started to escape from ornamental gardens into natural areas in the mid-Atlantic region. Part one of my research concerns the impacts this species is having on surrounding native plant populations. Part two is concerned with whether this species is increasing soil nitrogen concentrations, due to associations with novel nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Tracking changes in coastal plain plant communities

Kathy Thornton and Sylvan Kaufman, Adkins Arboretum

Abstract: Adkins Arboretum contains a wide diversity of Coastal Plain plant communities. Understanding how communities change over time by comparing surveys of plant species informs land management decisions. The survey data will be available and useful to other researchers and to the public.


How Plant Identity, Diversity & Traits Structure Microbial Endophyte Communities

Eric Griffin PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Abstract: I propose to simultaneously evaluate how tree diversity and herbivore damage are related to leaf microbial endophyte communities among native trees in a Maryland forest. This project will provide new evidence and insight into the importance of native biodiversity and the roles of microbes in critical ecosystem processes.

Native and Invasive Forest Plants Influence Forest Nutritional Dynamics

Andrew P Landsman, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware.

Abstract: Japanese stiltgrass and other invasive plants often outcompete and smother native herbaceous species. Despite invasive plant prevalence in Maryland’s forest patches, research on native herbaceous species response and impacts to invertebrates is scarce. This project aims to continue my objective of highlighting the importance of native plants to ecological health.

Understanding the Ecological Impacts of T daniellii Invasions

David Grow, MS Student, Towson University

Abstract: Land owners in Maryland have documented Beebee tree (Tetradium daniellii) as a recently emerging invasive non-native tree. I will research how Beebee tree is impacting the native plant diversity of Maryland. My investigation will answer questions which may prioritize management of the species before its invasion intensifies.

2016 (Only applications from K-12 teachers accepted)

Retention Pond Diversity Study

Rachel Coffey, Cecil County Public Schools

Abstract: This project investigates to what extent is biodiversity affected by non-native invasive plant species in a storm water retention pond ecosystem. This project assesses biodiversity in our storm water retention pond before and after removal of non-native invasive species and planting of native species.


Predicting the Impact of Non-native Plants on Native Plant Diversity and Insect Food Webs

Adam B Mitchell, PhD student, University of Delaware

Abstract: Non-native plant species reduce biodiversity at a global scale, and predicting how non-native plants change the availability of habitat for organisms may provide insight into restoring biodiversity in native landscapes. I seek to investigate how non-native plants alter food webs based on their relationships with native plants and insect communities.

Soil Preferences in the Adiantum pedatum Complex

Christopher Hoess, Delaware Technical Community College

Abstract: The Adiantum pedatum complex (northern maidenhair ferns) are difficult to distinguish, and have been misidentified in Maryland. By sampling these ferns from a variety of habitats and analyzing the soil they grow in, we can be certain which species grow in Maryland and better understand which habitats can support them.

Wavyleaf Basket Grass Removal and Site Restoration at Cromwell Valley Park,

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell

Abstract: Wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius), a perennial invasive grass, is now a serious threat to woodlands in Maryland. This project will determine if hand-pulling by volunteers is an effective way to control a new (sparse cover) invasion and if simultaneously controlling other invasive species (Japanese stiltgrass and multiflora rose) decreases wavyleaf reinvasion and increases the success of planted native species.

The Impact of Native Companions on the Growth of Hybridized American Chestnuts

Eric VanSlyke, Allegany County Public Schools

Abstract: We will interplant one grove of Hybridized American Chestnut trees with native trees and grasses. At the same time, we will interplant another grove of Hybridized American Chestnut trees with nonnative trees and grasses. We will measure the height of each tree before interplanting, and after a 2-year growth period to compare the impact of the native companions against the nonnative companion plants.


Mountain Bugbane Preservation through Population Analysis and Outreach Materials

Lauren Hull, Graduate Student in Applied Ecology & Conservation Biology Sunshine L. Brosi, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Abstract: State imperiled mountain bugbane (Actaea podocarpa DC, Ranunculaceae) is threatened by ecological and anthropogenic pressures. We propose a dual approach to aid in A. podocarpa preservation through population analysis and development of outreach materials. Population analysis will establish the current status of A. podocarpa and document impacts of dying hemlocks. Outreach materials aim to reduce unintentional harvest.

Deer Herbivory and Invasive Plants Alter Web- Building Spider Ecology by Modifying Native Plant Communities

Andrew P. Landsman

Abstract: White-tailed deer and invasive plants significantly alter the species composition, structure and nativity of Maryland’s forests. I am examining the cascading impacts to community structure, diversity, and available prey for spiders resulting from these comprehensive impacts to native forest vegetation. This work will highlight the importance of Maryland’s native vegetation and forest habitats to invertebrate conservation.

The Impact of Insects on the Invasive Plant, Wavyleaf Basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius)

Tamara Heiselmeyer

Abstract: Wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius) is an invasive grass in Maryland and Virginia. Here, a percent leaf-damage assessment and a comparison of insect community structure between invaded and non-invaded sites will be conducted to determine the effect insects have on wavyleaf basketgrass and how wavyleaf basketgrass affects the insect community.


Enhancing Urban Biodiversity with Native Plantings

Anna Johnson, PhD candidate University of Maryland Baltimore County

Abstract: This research will experimentally manipulate plant community composition in the fall of 2013, in 30 city-owned vacant lots in Baltimore, MD. Seeds of native plant species will be added and resulting shifts in plant biodiversity and ecosystem function will be monitored, to inform future urban restoration and landscape management plans. The MNPS grant covered reseeding in the fall of 2014, greenhouse supplies, and signage for the lots.



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