Conservation Creation: Red Panda-monium, featuring DIY Seed Bombs!

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Red pandas are undeniably one of the world’s cutest animals. With bright red fur, striking facial features and a big fluffy tail, these animals have quickly become popular throughout the internet and in the hearts of our guests. However, these traits serve a larger purpose than to pull at our heartstrings! Red pandas are native to Southeast Asia, particularly in the temperate forests near the Himalayan Mountains. In these areas, temperatures remain cool and that large fluffy tail is used almost like a blanket to keep these small animals warm. In addition to providing warmth, that beautiful thick red fur helps these animals camouflage themselves within the red lichens that grow in their natural habitat.

Believe it or not, the red panda is the original panda. Red pandas were discovered around 50 years before the black and white giant pandas that we typically think of. These animals have caused quite a headache for scientists over the years as they’ve tried to figure out the relationship between red pandas and giant pandas.

Currently, red pandas are classified in their own unique family called Ailuridae. However different these animals may seem, they do share some commonality. For one, both the red panda and the giant panda love to eat bamboo! These animals are also both greatly affected by habitat loss. Here at the Greensboro Science Center we support the Red Panda Network, an organization dedicated to preserving these animals. You can also help red pandas by donating to the Red Panda Network here (https://www.redpandanetwork.org) and by continuing to visit the Greensboro Science Center and other AZA accredited zoos and aquariums!

Remember to join us during the month of September on Tuesdays and Thurdsays at 10:30am and 2:30pm at our red panda habitat to participate in our Conservation Creation activity as well as on September 14thfor Red Panda Day!

While red pandas live thousands of miles away from us, there are things we can do for animals effected by habitat loss right here in North Carolina! Some of these animals include our local pollinators such as bees and butterflies. As we move in to the cooler months of fall, we can begin planting flowers and other plants to help out these animals. To get started, we have a cool DIY activity for you to do at home that will be fun for you and beneficial to our local pollinators: Seed Bombs!

DIY Seed Bombs

What you will need: Air-dry clay, potting soil or compost, water, seeds, a large mixing bowl, a measuring cup of any size

To choose seeds that will be the most beneficial to your area, visit this website: https://www.ourstate.com/tips-bee-friendly-garden-north-carolina/

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Seed bomb ingredients

Step 1: Take 1 part clay, 1 part water, and 2 parts potting soil or compost and combine them in your mixing bowl.

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Combine 1 part clay, 1 part water, and 2 parts potting soil or compost

Step 2: Use your hands (or a large spoon) to mix the ingredients together, adding water as necessary. Your final mixture should be similar to Play-Doh in consistency.

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Mix ingredients, adding water as necessary, until the mixture has a Play-Doh-like consistency

Step 3: Add your seeds of choice to the mixture and mix thoroughly.

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Add seeds

Step 4: Form the mixture into balls or another fun shape of your choosing.

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Form the mixture into balls

Step 5: Allow 2-3 days for your seed bombs to dry and then toss them wherever you would like your seed bombs to grow! Seed bombs don’t require care or attention so they can be placed wherever you would like to see your flowers. Visit them often in the Fall and Spring to see if you have any insect visitors!

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Completed seed bombs!

Media Release: “Wicked Plants” Author to Speak at Science Café

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Amy Stewart, author of “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities”

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) will host Amy Stewart, the author of “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities,” at a Science Café on Wednesday, April 4 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Stewart’s book is the basis of Wicked Plants: The Exhibit, hosted at the GSC through May 6, 2018. Admission to the Science Café is free.

About the Science Café

Join author Amy Stewart for a closer look at the medicinal, mind-altering and mysterious properties of plants, from strangling vines to heart-stopping seeds and even a leaf that started a war! Amy blends science with history in this talk, a companion piece to Wicked Plants: The Exhibit. Wickedly tasty snacks will be provided before the talk.

Stewart will also be signing copies of her book, “Wicked Plants,” available for sale at the event. Her talk is geared towards older children and adults.

This event is part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a month-long event that highlights the educational, cultural and financial impact of science in the state.

Amy Stewart Bio

Best-selling New York Times author Amy Stewart is no stranger to the perils and pleasures of the natural world. To date, she has written nine books, including “The Drunken Botanist,” “Wicked Bugs” and “Flower Confidential.” Beyond putting pen to paper, Amy travels the country as a highly sought-after public speaker whose spirited lectures have inspired and entertained audiences at college campuses, corporate offices, museums, gardens and libraries nationwide. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Scott with whom she owns an independent bookstore (so independent that it lives in California) called Eureka Books.

Amy’s books have been translated into 16 languages and her 2009 book, “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities,” has been adapted into a national traveling exhibit entitled Wicked Plants: The Exhibit. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award.

For more information on Amy, please visit amystewart.com.

How to Attract Monarchs

A wonderful question on Facebook inspired us to talk to our horticulturalist about how to attract Monarch butterflies to your garden. Here is what she has to say:

Creating a space for butterflies is both a beautiful and incredibly rewarding hobby!

Plant specific species in full sun for nectar, include a variety of host plants such as milkweed for monarchs, and create enough ecological diversity through the addition of a few umbeliferous species to diminish certain pests without the use of harmful chemicals. I recommend including flowering Bee Balm or Bergamont, Native Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Liatris Purple Rocket Flower, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Daisies, Asters, Dianthus, Tickseed, umbeliferous species such as Fennel, Dill, Yarrow, or Tansy. Salvias, Sweet Alyssum, and Lantana are also beneficial. You can also include annuals such as Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos.

Netting Around Milkweed Seeds

Netting Over Seed Pods

Right now, many milkweed species such as Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca, and the Butterflyweed Ascpepias tubrosa, have flowered and are successfully producing their pods, which will dry and burst to release several seeds to the wind. You can place a protective netting over the pods in your garden to save some of these seeds. Other milkweed species include Whorled Milkweed Asclepias verticillata and Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata. Sowing your perennial flower seeds in the fall will provide them with the cold stratification they need to germinate well in the spring just as it occurs in nature. It is important to allow all wild-growing milkweed seeds outside of your garden to spread naturally where they will succeed and grow. You can purchase seeds from local native garden nurseries such as NC Botanical Gardens and others you can find listed here http://ncbg.unc.edu/recommended-sources-of-native-plants/.

Include an area with flat stones in the sun and an area for water puddling with a few “perching pebbles” where butterflies might take in water and minerals they need.

For more information about creating beautiful native gardens and habitat in North Carolina, visit: http://www.ncsu.edu/goingnative/ag636_03.pdf. To learn more about how to help Monarch butterflies visit Monarch Watch. Every plant makes a difference!