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Native Plants Series: What's the Big Deal?

Ok peeps. You may have seen in my stories over the weekend that I'm a little riled up about the lack of understanding of the importance of planting natives in residential gardens. A letter to the editor in "The American Gardener" (produced by the American Horticulture Society) made me realize that even avid gardeners, do not understand. The reader thought that by planting lots of any kind of flowering plant in her garden, she was providing food for all birds and insects. She couldn't be more wrong.

So even though I've covered this in my Native Plants Series, I thought it might be time to review. Just the basics today.

* Native insects, birds, and all wildlife evolved over time with native plants.

* Plants are at the bottom of the food chain. No living creature can convert energy from the sun into food to live on.

* Insects and other wildlife eat the plants, or eat other wildlife that has eaten the plants.

* Insects are not all generalists - so many need to eat certain plants they have evolved with. Prime example: Milkweed and Monarchs. Yes, a monarch can get its sustenence from almost any nectar-bearing flower of the right shape. But it's caterpillars cannot eat just any plant. It can ONLY eat milkweed. No milkweed, no monarchs. The same is true for thousands of other insect species.

* "Climate is changing, wildlife will move with it" - This is partly true, but not for plants. Plants will not be able to migrate north as fast as people and animals can. They will run out of habitat.

* "Natural" lands are nearly gone - there is not enough "wild" land left for species to survive on. Some require minimum territory sizes, some can't get from one "native island" to the next. We need to do all we can to create connections of native plantings for their survival.

* Even migratory birds need to eat certain foods at certain times of year - the right fat, squishy caterpillars to feed their young, the seeds/berries with the right nutrition to fuel their migrations. Non-natives don't do a good job of providing that correct nutrition.

Ok, that was a bit more than the basics. But still just an overview.


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