The NE Grows conference kicked off today with a fabulous presentation from Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.
Doug offered a strong message that our current open spaces are not enough to support the diversity of wildlife we need to deliver ecological benefits (like support of pollinators, carbon sequestration, species conservation, etc). Conservation is not just for public parks and open spaces, biodiversity has to be something we value and promote even (and maybe especially) in the residential landscape.
A great example of the role of biodiversity is the bird population and food chain. I knew that birds depend on berries for food, but I didn’t know they require insects to feed their young. In fact, over 90% of bird species feed their babies an exclusive diet of insects! And, many birds are “food specialized” where they eat only one type, or a few types of insects.
This is important to the homeowner, gardener, and landscape designer, because those insects eat plants. An not just any plants, they eat native plants. As we’ve replaced native plants in our landscape with “inedible” non-native ornamental plans, we’ve reduced sources of food for insects, birds and other animals.
Doug’s call to action was to “think of plants not only as decoration, but for their ecological role in the landscape”. And, we can do it! By introducing a few native plant species in our residential landscapes we can all play a role in supporting biodiversity.
Here are a few of my favorite trees and shrubs from Doug’s list of stellar native plants!
Quercus alba (White Oak): There is nothing more stately than a mature Oak tree. They take full sun, can handle a variety of harsh conditions and support some 550+ species of insects and animals!
Betula nigra (River Birch): Both Yellow Birch and River Birches are natives, but the smaller size and trademark exfoliating bark make the River Birch a favorite in the residential landscape.
Myrica pennsylvanica (Bayberry): If you live by the shore, this is a great shrub that can take poor soil and salty conditions. You can even make candles from the berries… pretty cool!
Viburnum dentatum (Viburnum): A number of Viburnums are native species, many offering year round interest and beautiful fall foliage and berries.
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush): A new favorite of mine that I started planting last year. Lindera is a large shrub with yellow flowers in spring and beautiful yellow foliage in the fall.
Next time you’re at the nursery, keep these in mind and see if they can be a fit in your landscape!