Crossing your fingers that lots of butterflies, birds, and bees will visit your outdoor space this summer? Integrating native plants into your backyard is the secret to building habitats for these pollinators. Plus, natives are affordable and just as beautiful as the usual garden plant suspects.
Long before European settlers brought their perfect lawns and Asian flora and fauna to North America, native plants and our local bugs, birds and animals evolved together as an ecosystem, depending on each other for survival and reproduction.
Over time, as we’ve replaced our yards and farmlands with lawns and alien plants from other continents, we’ve suppressed the native habitats that our local creatures live and feast on.
“Our sense of the ‘ideal’ garden has changed over time from natural landscapes that are less structured with less contrast dominated by wildflowers, to more controlled and tidier gardens with bolder colors,” said Sara Tangren, an agent associate for the University of Maryland Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources, where she teaches about native plants and sustainable landscaping.
Pollinators of all types – insects, birds, and bats – are in decline due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and diseases. Insects – including Maryland’s 400 species of native bees – provide valuable pollination and a food source for wildlife. Insect pollination is essential for the production of about one-third of our food crops. And some pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds, are simply a delight to see!
You can make a difference for pollinators by incorporating these practices in your garden or yard.