Most of us in our quest to become more responsible actors in our environment have heard the call to “plant native.” The call asks you to help restore biodiversity and ecosystem function by removing invasive and introduced species and replacing them with species naturally found in the Pacific Northwest if you have the luxury of maintaining a more natural space. The Sound Water Stewards Class of ’21 had a thorough introduction to native and invasive species and their impacts on our environment, but if you are interested in a quick and light read that goes further into the subject, I would recommend Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope.
Tallamy proposes that rather than spending time and money on experiencing nature in our National Parks, we could create our own Homegrown National Park and watch nature thriving in our own backyards. To do this, we must make sure that all the bugs, bees, moths, butterflies, and birds have what they need to complete their life cycle and take their place in the web of life.
There is plenty of science in this book, but it is an easy and pleasing read. Case studies are presented that explain how invasive plant species create a hostile environment for native wildlife, and alternatively, how even the most urban lot can attract a wild diversity of birds and butterflies if it is full of the resources they need to survive.
Tallamy provides some fascinating wildlife facts too: a monarch caterpillar avoids getting its mouth glued shut by milkweed sap by blocking the flow of sap into the leaves; both male and female birds feed their young, making hundreds of feedings a day during nesting; and North America ‘has nearly 4000 species of native bees’ (p. 155).
While this book primarily focuses on the environments on the Eastern Seaboard, there are recommendations to get you started. The main ask is to replace half of your manicured lawn with native plantings and wild habitat areas. If you live in an HOA with strict landscaping rules, see if those rules can be changed. Some easier asks are to make sure any nighttime security lights are motion censored and to encourage your neighbors, family and friends in joining you in the effort.
So, if you want to join me in the Homegrown National Park project and experience nature in your own backyard, reading this book is a good place to start!
— Britt McKenzie, Class of 2021
Local Resources for Native Plants: