Native plants are nature’s birdfeeders; providing seeds and the insects these plants lure as fly-thru protein snacks. Native plants are also nature’s butterfly feeders. And insect feeders. These wildflowers have been providing food for wildlife here for thousands of years. Our wildlife have adapted to these American plants. They now need them for food.
Non-native plants, by contrast, do not fit in to the web of life as a food source. The worst culprit in our area is buckthorn. It releases a chemical (emodin) into the soil which runs off into wetlands and kills amphibian (think frogs) embryos. It also leafs out early in spring and stays leafed longer into the fall, robbing native plants of their needed sunlight. The food producing native plants then disappear from under the buckthorn, taking their forest flowers with them. Buckthorn also harms birds that eat the buckthorn berry by causing diarrhea when these avians should be storing energy ahead of their migrations. See: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-scientific-reveal-midwestern-frogs-decline.html
Planting the right plants lets you fill a shopping cart of food for nature. Many of these right plants are also pleasingly beautiful. Your yard can become an island habitat providing this food as a refuge in a sea of mowed lawns.
Nature is something you can build, enjoy and share when you Join Wild Ones!
Helpful Links to Learn About Native Plants
The importance of prairie preservation: TED Talks Prairie
Landscaping: Pride, Science & Law: Joy Buslaff
Rain Gardens: An excellent online resource is the Hebert Small-Scale Rain Garden Guide. It is free and specifies native plants, see pp. 48-49. You may have met Kevin Hebert at one of our workshops.
More on Rain Gardens: Rain Gardens, How to – WI DNR Publication
Yard and Prairie Burns:Drone film of a prairie burn: This cool video which was filmed from a drone at Bluff Spring Fen in Cook County: Bluff Spring Fen Burn – Drone film
Member Yard Burn on YouTube: Ted Lowe’s Ted Lowe’s 2014 Yard Burn