Douglas Tallamy visits Richmond

“Plants and animals are the rivets that hold our ecosystem together,” says Douglas Tallamy, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Tallamy speak to Garden Club of Virginia horticulture chairmen and state board members in Richmond today and his message was a challenge to gardeners and homeowners in the room to evaluate our own yards and plant more native plants to sustain wildlife and promote biodiversity.

Americans seem to love lawns, yet if they would simply replace the grass in 50% of their lawns with native plants, he added, we would create a 20 million-acre park that would go far in attracting birds and other wildlife back into our gardens.

As gardeners we often choose lovely plants that are both non-native and pest free, however insects are what we want and non-natives do nothing for them. Bring back the insects with native plants and trees and we will attract the birds, the frogs and toads, the skinks, etc. to this insect food source. Bird populations are on the decline, a fact linked directly to habitat.

It’s not the berries that the birds need, it’s the insects with high protein and fats. Over 90% of birds exist on a diet of insects while winter and migratory birds eat seeds.

Tallamy stressed that we all have an important role in making a difference to sustain wildlife and biodiversity. Share your space. Plant natives, folks!

For more information on this topic or to order his book, Bringing Nature Home, visit Dr. Tallamy’s website where he offers much guidance and advice. Lists of woody and herbaceous plants that support life and the number of insects it supports are included on the site. A surprise to me was the oak tree, # 1 on the list, that supports 534 different caterpillars!  Plant oak trees, folks!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester