by Barbara Walvoord
It takes 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise one nest full of chickadees. Almost all caterpillars eat only native plants, not aliens.*
Plants don’t want to be eaten, so they evolve to make themselves poisonous, distasteful, or inaccessible to insect mouthparts. But, aha! each native insect has co-evolved to overcome the defenses of one or several native plants. Thus the monarch butterfly lays eggs only on milkweed–the only thing its caterpillars can eat. Facing a 90% decline in monarchs due in part of disappearance of milkweed, the National Wildlife Federation and others are mounting a national effort to increase milkweed plantings.
Butterflies, bees, and birds–that’s why we need native plants on Lathrop land, including our gardens. Natives can be as beautiful, orderly, and well-designed as aliens.**
Stores may advertise “native” plants, but beware: natives from the Midwest may not be as good for our insects as Continue reading The Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening
Article for Nor’Easter
Barbara Walvoord 2/5/14
Here’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.