Thinking about our Land

Article for Nor’Easter

Barbara Walvoord  2/5/14

red berry Picture5Here’s an amazing statistic: 96% of birds need bugs, not just berries, to feed their young. 90% of  bugs can eat only native plants, and most eat only a few types or one type of native plant.

If we want birds, we need to nourish our bugs. If we want bugs, we have to nourish a wide variety of the native plants they need.

So what’s a “native”?  It’s a plant that evolved with our insects in this area, over time. We have lots of natives at Lathrop, but also lots of alien plants that our insects cannot use. We can make a significant difference for our world if we conserve and restore native habitat on our land.

A book that will open your eyes about the importance of these issues is Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home. Our amazing statistic comes from his book. He writes beautifully and compellingly about the web of life. The web begins when plants capture sunlight. They are the only things that can do so. Everything else depends on their doing it. Then bugs and animals eat the plants, other bugs and animals eat them, and so on up the food chain. If the native plants aren’t there, then the whole thing collapses. You can buy the book on Amazon.com. We are ordering a copy for the Lathrop library. If you Google Tallamy, you can find You-Tubes of his presentations. This one summarizes the basic ideas of the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEhl2ZwzCr4.

Are you starting to get seed catalogs in your mail? Considering planting some natives in your garden this spring? Be sure you get “straight” natives, not cultivars of natives. The best source we know is Project Native in Housatonic, near Great Barrington, about 75 minutes drive from Lathrop (http://projectnative.org). You can get their catalog. In spring, a trip to their nursery is fun: They have all kinds of native plants for sale and information about growing them, as well as walking paths and a butterfly house. They also sponsor a film festival.

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