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Posts Tagged ‘native species’

It might look all pretty on the surface, but don’t be deceived.  There’s a fierce and brutal competition going on in local gardens these days.  Many plants depend on insects for cross-pollination in order to ensure the survival of their species.  With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that some are going to be more successful than others at attracting pollinators to their blooms.  Take rhododendrons for example.  Locally, it’s difficult to find a residential street where these showy non-native ornamental shrubs are not in bloom this week.

What does a plant have to do to get some attention from flying insects?  Look bright and beautiful for starters.  And this is something rhododendrons do especially well.  So well in fact that they distract many pollinators from visiting our less showy native species.  Canadian bees probably haven’t heard about the poisonous ‘mad honey’ that’s created with the nectar of rhododendrons.   (See more in Wikipedia’s entry on Grayanotoxin).  They simply target the most spectacular blooms and tuck in.

Many gardeners too likely don’t know that the petals and leaves of common rhododendrons are poisonous and can prove deadly to livestock and children if ingested.

While attracting a good share of pollinators during the daytime, white flowers also catch the attention of night-flying moths with their subtle scent.  What wonderful flying creatures are drawn to these alluring blooms under the moonlight?

In many countries around the globe, common rhododendrons are now considered an invasive species as they’ve taken over the natural understory in some forests.  (See the Wikipedia entry on Rhododendron ponticum).  In the past year, I’ve found two invasive rhododendrons growing in otherwise wild areas on my property.  If they start crowding out the native plants, will I become a rhodi-basher in the years to come?  I hope not, but it can be a jungle out there.

Invasive rhododendrons

June 18th to the 24th 2012 is International Pollinator Week.  Do you know what’s going on in your garden? For more information, see Pollination Canada.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.

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City or suburb dwellers frequently decide to build their dream home in the country.  They find a nice spot brimming with wildlife and trees.  They look forward to waking up to the sound of birds in the morning and seeing hares and pheasants in the yard. 

But before you can say ‘Where’s my chainsaw?’  they’ve cleared out most of the trees and levelled the land.  Within a few years, their driveway’s paved and their lawn looks almost as neat and tidy as the one they left behind in the city.  (For my role in this, see Confessions of a Woods Cleaner).  They may plant some non-native ornamental trees and bushes and regularly weed their new flower beds.  Unfortunately, the hares and frogs have hopped out of the neighborhood as has much of the other wildlife.   

Does it have to be this way?  No, it doesn’t.

Wildlife and woods go together.  It’s almost impossible to have one without the other.  But woods are messy in their natural state, and most humans like to keep their environment looking neat.  However, the diversity of native plant and animal life shrinks astoundingly when land is cleared to make way for clean-cut lawns and pristine flower beds.

For example, many wild birds, such as woodpeckers, thrive in old growth forests.  When old trees are cut down, it’s no surprise that the woodpeckers leave the neighborhood.  They depend on these old trees for nests and the insect life within them for food.

Vernal pools created by toppled trees and an uneven forest floor collect rainwater and provide a habitat for amphibians and a greater variety of plants.  (For more information on attracting amphibians back to your yard, see my post on Why Every Princess Needs a Toad in her Garden).

The United Nations has designated 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity.  You can read more about why biodiversity matters here.  If you own land, you might consider leaving some of it in its natural state.  One simple solution is to allow wild spaces to thrive on the edge of your property.  Allowing the growth of wild hedgerows between properties provides privacy and a wind barrier between neighbors while sustaining native species of both plants and animals.  

By allowing a wild space to thrive in your yard, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the diversity of life that it will begin to attract.

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In an effort to increase awareness and encourage positive change, 2010 has been designated the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations.

What is biodiversity?
Basically, it’s the variety of life on earth: plant and animal species and the ecosystems that sustain them.

How does this variety affect our daily lives?
From the foods we eat to climate change, biodiversity affects us all.

Why should we be concerned?
Loss of biodiversity on the planet is happening at a rapid rate.
For example…
– Forests are being changed into croplands with devastating effects to climate.
– Species of plants and animals are being harvested at unsustainable rates.
– Changes to the timing of flowering and migration routes are affecting relationships between species within ecosystems.
– Introduced invasive species (plants, animals and micro-organisms) are threatening native species by competing for food and habitat.
– Pollution is creating dead zones in the ocean which can no longer sustain life.

What can be done at the local level?
Doing something about biodiversity can be as simple as encouraging the growth of native trees in your yard as opposed to growing exotic species that require extra maintenance to ensure their survival.  It’s always amazed me how people move from the city to the country wanting to be close to nature, and then work so hard to tame the wild spaces in order to make them look ‘civilized.’

In the year ahead, I’ll be writing more on the subject of biodiversity, but for now it’s enough to simply introduce the subject.

We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.
~ Stephen Jay Gould

For more information about 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, see the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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