Feed the caterpillars!
Its late winter and gardeners like me are going through the plant catalogs in eager anticipation of getting back into our gardens to grow the beautiful, healthy, prolific plants that the pictures promise! As you get started planning your planting, don’t forget to check out the catalog for the Native Plant Sale on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28. Planting natives in our gardens is important for a number of reasons.
Initially, it was thought that native plants, accustomed to the soil and climate of our area, would not need the care and attention that non-native plants would need. I have found this to be partially true. Most native prairie plants are very hardy in that they are able to withstand wet and dry conditions. However, this is not true for all the native plants. Butterfly weed for instance generally grows in the more sandy soils of southern Ohio. I have one patch of Butterfly Weed that is doing great, but another patch has been slowly but surely getting smaller and smaller. Woodland plants are another that need to find the soil that suits them. Plants like Trillium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit may not survive or it may take time for them to thrive. All the more reason to try as many different natives as possible!
In the news more recently is the decline of wildlife populations like bees and monarch butterflies. Planting natives in your yard will help pollinators get the nectar and pollen they need to survive. Planting milkweeds will help replace the “weeds” that are no longer in and along the edges of farm fields and thus help the Monarch.
Do you want to help the birds too? Of course you do! First, however, you have to feed the caterpillars. Ninety percent of land birds raise their young on caterpillars, and studies have shown that very few insects eat non-native plants. They have not co-evolved with these plants to tolerate the plant’s chemical defenses. It has also been shown that birds have a greater success rate raising young in yards that have more native plants than those in yards with mostly non-natives. Methinks it’s time to plant as many natives as possible to feed our baby birds!
I hope you will join me in shopping the Native Plant Sale on Saturday, April 27 from 9:00-4:00 or Sunday, April 28 from 1:00-4:00. Following the Plant Sale, a smaller selection will be available for sale in the Native Plant Nursery during regular TWC business hours.
Education Program Manager, Senior Naturalist