Sunday, February 1, 2009

Non-natives v/s natives

In a previous post, I provided some definitions for xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is our local response to planting native plants which in turn encourages and nurtures native insects, birds and animals. My classmate, Becca, in her blog at spoke about becoming a beekeeper and wanting to provide native plantings for her bees. She also provided information about the National Wildlife Federation and creating a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Becca recommended, a nature blog by Emmett Duffy. Duffy has some wonderful advice on using native plants and he provides food for thought about the ultimate effect on our environment, particularly urban and suburban areas, when the dominant plants are non-native species.

Although I consider myself to be someone who cares about and is knowledgeable about ecology and biodiversity, I had not considered the bigger picture of non-native plants affecting the lives of local fauna. For years I have been much more concerned about the use of pesticides and herbicides and the chemical warfare to create green golf-course lawns where none were meant to be. But Duffy’s remarks make so much sense! He says, “Sure, that Wisteria looks nice. But does it taste nice–that is, to the creatures that have to make a living on it? How has this creeping transformation of outdoor space affected the rest of the ecosystem?” I honestly never thought about the long-reaching effects of non-native plants literally starving out our local fauna!

Reading both Becca’s and Duffy’s blogs motivated me to do something very public in our neighborhood. We waited in trepidation for someone to complain to the city authorities when we dug up our front lawn and began planting native plants. The only people who commented were positive about our flowering sages and penstemons so we breathed a sigh of relief. Today I spent time on the National Wildlife Federation website going through the process of certifying our home as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Our urban yard meets all the requirements of using organic methods, planting natives, and providing food, water and cover for animals. For a $25 fee, they are sending me a weatherproof aluminum sign that we will proudly place in our front yard under the Mount Lemmon Marigold shrub (tagetes lemmonii) to announce that our home is also home to the plants and animals that have made it their home long before us.


Becca said...

Congratulations! Maybe in this bold, quiet way you'll start a trend on your street, block, or whole neighborhood. :-)

Melanie Dylan Fox said...

As I said in Becca's blog, I so appreciate your desire to return to what's native for your yard. My backyard here is literally an entire invasive species ecosystem, and it makes me sad when I look out on it at how it's encroached on the plants that could, should, be here.