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I happened upon Deb Magnes' article on Bradford Pears, in which she outlined some reasons to avoid planting them, and although they don't grow here in Central Florida, we have plenty of invasive exotics of our own. I prefer to garden with plants that are native to my region. I have many good reasons for doing so, but I recently learned of a compelling reason that I was unaware of, and that I would like to share.
The keynote speaker at this year's Florida Native Plant Society conference was Douglas W. Tallamy, author of *Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants*. From Dr. Tallamy I learned that non-indigenous plants, even those that have been naturalized for many years, support only a fraction of the native insect species that our native plants do.
Maybe you don't like insects, but you probably do like birds, and you can translate "insects" as "bird food". Not only have we paved over much of the habitat that supported the plants that fed the insects that birds and other insectiverous animals require, but we may as well have paved over our suburban gardens as well, for all the utility our lawns and ornamental exotic plants have for them.
Bird populations are declining all over the world, and part of the reason lies in our gardening choices.
I couldn't agree more Harriett. This is very disturbing to me too. I believe the big chain plant suppliers are largely responsible. Most folks just accept what they sell, and are very proud of themselves when they are able to get some exotic or showy plant to flourish in their care. I find that non-native plants are a lot more trouble that they're worth. It's getting more difficult to find good native plants, but it is still up to the individual gardeners educate themselves, seek them out and re-establish them.
I have a particular interest in finding these plants because I garden for butterflies and native wildlife. I'm always looking for ways to influence the mainstream back to their roots. Another huge trigger for my mission was hearing that the 1st grade classes had raised Painted Lady butterflies. Upon asking one of the teachers what host plant they used for the caterpillars, the response was, "Host plant? What's a host plant?" I asked, "What did y'all feed them? She replied, "Purina Butterfly Chow, of course", and then looked at me as if I grew an extra head.
After many years of talking to the teachers at this elementary school ~ After 3 kids and 12 years of being associated there ~ I was finally given enough support to plant a real garden. This is my youngest son's last year there, but I will continue working in this garden, and with the kids for years to come. Several of the plants are from seeds I acquired 2 & 3 years ago from people here at DG.
Between my own collection and the generous native plant donations from my family at Dave's TX Gardening Forum, I was fortunate enough to plant some very special host and nectar plants. I pray to eventually provoke other schools in our area to jealousy, and they will follow suit.
I just may have found and effective contribution to the future of our native species...one child and one teacher at a time. :-)
Oh, and thanks so much for reading and responding to the article. It's great to meet people who care about this enormous environmental issue. All this talk about "going green", and little is mentioned about keeping native plant species as part of the regime. Being truly "green" starts in the ground.