I’ve just finished reading an excellent book written by Douglas W. Tallamy, called Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens(2007). Tallamy does an excellent job of explaining how each and every person can give back to nature what we have altered or taken away entirely. Tallamy’s main focus is on the benefits of native plants and the wildlife they support. Mr. Tallamy is an entomologist and so there is a strong theme of, well, bugs-running throughout the book. To his credit, the book has significantly reduced my own general feeling of ickiness about bugs.
I had already decided at the beginning of this year to “go native” with regard to plants, and to “go organic” in the garden. After reading this book, I now understand how very important those two actions are to the health and well-being of the wildlife around my home. Why should people care about wildlife? Because we have shared the earth with millions of species of wildlife for at least 100,000 years and quite simply, we need them. We need plants and animals to help supply answers to our quest for medicines. We use plant and animal products extensively in industry. And let’s face it, we are at the top of the food chain, and all people need plants and/or animals to live.
But these are not the reasons why I care about wildlife, at least not the big reasons. I care about wildlife because of the simple and profound joy of witnessing wildlife in all of its complex and beautiful ways. Have you ever seen a passionflower bloom? Here is a picture of one from my backyard:
I am amazed at the delicate beauty of this flower and delight in its yummy fragrance. Passiflora incarnata is native to North America and is also native to Texas. You can learn all about this vine at the fantastic website hosted by the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. This tremendous resource offers tons of information about native plants for North America (not just Texas).
What is even better than the passionflower’s beauty and fragrance is that it provides food for butterfly caterpillars, nectar for when the caterpillars turn into butterflies, and fruit for birds. Even people like to eat passionfruit! So why in the world would anyone choose a non-native species of this vine or even worse, a non-native vine like Japanese honeysuckle? My theory: lack of knowledge.
So this brings me back to Tallamy’s book. If you love birds, love gardening and delight in nature, you simply must read this book. Tallamy has a great conversational style of writing and explains his ideas clearly. The book has plenty of photographs to illustrate his points, an appendix listing native plants by region, and an appendix listing native host plants for butterflies and pretty moths. The knowledge you gain will enable you to make more informed and responsible choices. Lead by example! Share the knowledge with your friends and family. This is one way that each of us can make the world a better place.