As a gardener, I feel a sense of responsibility every time a new plant is introduced to my garden. The ease with which we can now transport exotic species of plants from far away places, makes it more important than ever that we take care to be more mindful of not introducing invasive or alien plant species into our habitat.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended an event sponsored by the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens. The speaker for the event was Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy author of one of my favorite books, “Bringing Nature Home”. I read this book several years ago and I find myself referencing its pages quite often. Dr Tallamy stresses the importance of incorporating natives into our landscape. Natives trees, shrub and perennials provide habitat, food and shelter for a staggering variety of living organisms. From the insects that start the cycle of their lives in our trees and shrubs, to the birds and small mammals that feed on them and all the larger predators and herbivores that depend on them for their survival. Most insect herbivores can only eat those species with which they share an evolutionary history. They simply do not recognize aliens as a source of sustenance. Why is that important in a home garden? Research has proven that if insect herbivores do not survive on alien species, in turn, bird species would also suffer from a reduction of the insect biomass. It has been demonstrated that in a habitat where native plant species are prevalent, birds and small insectivore mammals are present in greater numbers. So if you care about our birds, you should also care about those plants that help sustain them. I enjoy the entire experience of gardening and that does not just entail plants but rather the entire community or biological biomass created in any space large of small.
Garden for life and you will be rewarded with a rich ecological paradise in your own backyard!