Sunday, July 5, 2015

Celebrate Your Freedom to Plant Native Flowers

With the sound of fireworks ringing in my head, I am here to celebrate our freedom - our freedom to decide that we can personally make a difference in the local ecosystem around us. We can choose to help our local insects and birds by planting native flowers and plants in our yards and our communities.

The news is full of articles about the decline in bees, monarch butterflies, and birds. These declines can be directly traced back to human behavior. We’re discouraged. Some people feel it is beyond their personal control. In reality, each of us can make a difference, and when enough people choose to change, it makes a huge difference.

Green bee on native Eupatorium
My Facebook news feed recently had an article about a woman in Tennessee that made a difference. She noticed that milkweed was growing in a public space and contacted city officials about not mowing it. They agreed and the concept of protecting pollinators and butterfly host plants grew until it became bigger than just not mowing! They now want to do more to help pollinators.

Monarch chrysalis
Not all of us have an opportunity to do something like that, but we have full control to support native insects in our yard. Native plants have evolved over thousands of years with local insects. 

Some insects have relationships with several native plants (for example, they eat their leaves). Some of them have a relationship with only a single group (or family) of plants (like the monarch butterfly and milkweed).

They can't just switch to a new plant to eat. Very few of the foliage-eating insects have had enough time to develop a similar sustaining relationship with non-native plants (some can eat the leaves of plants that are close relatives to their native hosts).

Wrens love insects

Birds are affected too. Birds eat insects, as adults and as 96% of baby birds. If foliage-eating insects can’t live on non-native plants, then the population of foliage-eating insects declines. If the population of those insects declines, then the bird population declines.

As humans have developed land and replaced native vegetation with non-native ornamental plants, populations of some birds have significantly declined.

So if you’d like to help out the bees, butterflies and birds around you, feel free to ignore the expectation that you use the same non-native plants as your neighbors. Break free of shopping at the big box stores for the same non-native shrubs, trees and perennials that they sell to everyone.

Celebrate your freedom to find the best plants for your all-American landscape! Of course, they can be every bit as beautiful as non-native plants.

P.S. Need help learning more about native plants and where to find them? Get in touch with your local native plant society and pick up a copy of ‘Bringing Nature Home.’

1 comment:

  1. Already have Bringing Nature Home - should be required reading in High School!