12 May 2011
Posted in NatureWorks
National Geographic reports that exotic plants may make your yard look beautiful but in the long run they will cause harm to our ecosystems. Dr. Doug Tallamy an entomologist (insect expert) at the University of Delaware explains why having only plants native to your area is so important.
Ever since non-native people started to arrive on America's shores, they've carried along with them trees, flowers, and vegetables from other places. Now there are so many of those outside plant species that they are crowding out the native plants that have lived here since before settlers arrived. This may not seem like too much of an issue until you consider the fact that the type of plants has an impact on other living things in the environment, like insects and animals.
Think of it as a web, which starts with the plants, goes to the insects, and ends with birds. Almost all the plant-eating insects in the United States—90% of them—are specialized, which means they eat only certain plants. When those certain plants aren’t available for the bugs to eat anymore the insects die off. In turn, insects are the food source of birds and when the insect population drops so does the bird population.
Dr. Tallamy points out that, "we cannot let the plants and animals around us disappear," and, "the way to preserve them is to give them food to eat. But when we plant non-native plants, we are clobbering the food web, because then we don't have the insects the birds need to live."
What can you do to help this situation? It’s simple! "Just Google 'native plants' and your location, and you can find out which plants really belong where you live," says Tallamy. He also suggests getting your children involved with the planting process or even having them, “adopt a bird species in trouble and see if [they] can't plant some things that will attract the insects they need."
Photo Above: Milkweed is a flower native to Central Florida. Monarch butterfly caterpillars dine on Milkweed. A small milkweed patch planted in Spring can produce beautiful Monarch butterflies in the Summer!