The forests, beaches, mountain ranges, and meadowlands have always been places of incredible beauty. What is it about these wild landscapes that I and so many others love? Possibly it’s the diversity of life they all share. There’s always something new to discover. This love led me to an Instagram account, @homegrownnationalpark where I discovered people creating such natural spaces right in their own backyards!
As it turns out, there is so much more than beauty and curiosity that make these wild areas amazing. They are the places that sustain all life! This was evident after hearing the author, professor of entomology, and creator of the aforementioned Instagram account, Doug Tallamy, speak last week. It was a very hopeful presentation explaining the positive impact everyone can have on the future of the planet just by changing our perspective on how we approach our own spaces in just a few ways.
An overall theme of Doug’s research is how to work with and not against the natural world. Native plants are the main focus of this idea. Collectively, the yards we all have, from a container to a huge plot of land, have a massive impact on the diversity of life on this planet. Doug writes extensively about this in his book Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach To Conservation That Starts In Your Yard.
Planting natives, especially keystone species, wherever you are able will have a positive ripple effect on the web of life. Many species of insects rely on specific plants from which they have evolved. When these host plants are removed and replaced with exotics, the insects die and the creatures who rely on those insects die. Doug speaks extensively about the tiniest critters appearing to be the most important.
A great way to ensure the survival of vital food sources for birds and other creatures is to leave the debris that falls from your plants throughout the seasons in place. The leaves on the ground in fall provide the perfect habitat for so many small animals and keeps the soil permeable. This is where a slight change in perspective is needed. Rather than seeing a mess of leaves, you will now see all the biodiversity you helped steward!
One more simple way to increase the biodiversity in your space is to avoid herbicides, pesticides, and other chemical inputs. Nature has her own exquisite way of balancing herself out. This is overwhelmingly evident in the beautiful natural places we all admire and long to linger.
For more information, check out native plant resources in Richmond by visiting the Virginia Native Plant Society, https://vnps.org/. More resources can be found on Doug Tallamy’s website https://hgnp.wpengine.com/.