NATIVE LANDSCAPES Links
Native Landscapes & Wildlife habitats
“Exotic landscapes have proven to be a very expensive ecologic and economic symbol because they require life support. One has to alter the environment for them to survive. And life support isn't cheap – it requires pesticides, fertilizers, and water.”
A typical U.S. lawn, one-third of an acre in size, receives as much as 10 pounds of pesticides, 20 pounds of fertilizer, and 170,000 gallons of water annually. What's more, in one year a homeowner could spend the equivalent of a 40-hour workweek simply mowing that lawn (producing pollution equal to that created by driving a car 14,000 miles) plus hundreds of dollars caring for it.” [Source: Bret Rappaport, the director of Wild Ones, a nonprofit organization that encourages landscaping with native plants]
We couldn’t agree more!! If we are serious about saving our environment, Californians (in fact, all of us) need to rethink the concept of “landscaping.”
Check out the articles and organizations below. You’ll see that “going native” offers amazing benefits – and it’s so easy to do!
What is a Native Plant?
Our native plants grew here prior to European contact. California's native plants evolved here over a very long period, and are the plants which the first Californians knew and depended on for their livelihood. These plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi and microbes, to form a complex network of relationships. They are the foundation of our native ecosystems, or natural communities.
How do we know which plants are native?
Specimens, seeds and drawings of new world plants were taken to Europe by early explorers over many years. Thus, American plants were included in ongoing botanical studies of the world's flora. Also, the science of paleobotany allows scientists to compare fossil records with modern plants to understand which plants are native to an area.
Are native plants important?
Are non-native plants harmful?
Source: California Native Plant Society
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Why California Native Plants?Incorporating California native flora into your landscape is a superior alternative to hybrids, or non- natives alone. The use of California native plants in a backyard or home landscape is one of the most important trends in environmental horticulture today. The benefits of using native plants are substantial:
1.Lower cost, less labor
2. Enhanced wildlife diversity and abundance
3. They make ecological sense!
What is a Habitat Structure?
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Plants to Avoid/Remove
You might think that every plant at your local nursery is appropriate for your home landscape. Unfortunately, that is not true. The following plants have some nasty side effects. Seeds and shoots easily travel into wild places and wreak havoc.
Perhaps this list can help guide your landscape decisions to avoid these "invasive" plants and help keep our natural areas in better condition. Ask at your local nursery for suggestions on replacing these “bad” plants with native species that are equally attractive – with more wildlife benefits – AND that perfectly fit our ecosystem.
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What is a Backyard Wildlife Habitat?
It's a backyard, property or even just a patio that provides birds, butterflies, and other wild creatures a place to call home. It's a little more work than just hanging a feeder up but well worth it. As communities grow and develop, the homes of birds, insects, and other wild creatures are lost. You can help by providing a new place for them to call their own.
What do you have to provide?
Water is essential for life, and your backyard friends are not exceptions.
A small pond, a bird bath, or even a shallow pan of water are much appreciated. Or perhaps you have a stream behind your house already. Misters are also good for the tiny butterflies, bees, and other insects as well as the small birds. What do you have? What more can you provide?
Different types of critters obviously need different types of food. Look at the trees, bushes and shrubs that you have in your yard. Do they provide seeds, berries, fruits or nuts? What about plants, flowers and vines that provide seeds and nectar. Do you let your roses form rosehips? Birds love them. Can you plant another bush or tree? What about some sunflowers at the back of your garden or a Trumpet Vine on your fence with its gorgeous flowers and abundant nectar?
Shelter or cover is also essential. Think about it. Would YOU like to be out in the middle of a street without any protection? No, and neither do the birds and other creatures. They need somewhere to hide from predators, a place to nestle down at night, a place safe. And you need several areas of cover - you're going to attract many different species of animals and insects. An pair of Northern Cardinals are not going to choose the same tree as the Screech Owl.
Bushes and trees will also be used as nesting places during the spring and summer. Remember that many species are very territorial especially during this time. Again, the need for multiple sources of cover. Can you add another bush? What about that tree you've always wanted?
Ideas for cover include trees especially evergreens like hollies and pines. Dense shrubs are wonderful. And remember the insect population with rocks and logs.
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Getting Your Habitat Certified
Do you enjoy the birds in the trees, the butterflies flitting from flowers? Does your yard have bushes, trees, and flowers that provide seeds, berries, fruits, nectar for them? Is there a source of water for a thirsty bird? Are there nesting places and a place to roost at night? Then you might want to look into registering your backyard habitat.
There are a number of different organizations that I've found, and each has different requirements. Check all of them out and see which one works best for you.
The National Wildlife Federation has the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program. Check here to get more information about what you need to provide as well as to get the application. Once your backyard is certified, they send you a very nice certificate. You can also order a nice sign that you can post in the backyard if you want.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a Wildscape Program. This program goes a bit further and requires you use a certain percentage of native plants. Click here for information about how to plan your Wildscape as well as how to order the Wildscape packet that includes the basic information and excellent reference materials.
Additionally, many other states have programs for individuals. Call or write your state's wildlife area. Some states also have programs for businesses to join in, turning their unused property into new homes for wildlife.
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