Last year I converted my front yard into a native habitat. Goodbye grass, hello native plants! Why? To save the insects.
First, lawn grass does not benefit much in nature. If there is little rain, you must supplement with water from your hose. Water is very costly. Next, you must buy gas for your lawnmower so that you can spend some time each week mowing. Finally, to keep it weed free and healthy, you must buy fertilizer and some type of weed blocker. You do this, your neighbors as well….now times that by every household, park, school, and commercial property. The insects are wondering…where did our food go?…where did our habitat go?
Recently an article came out which gave a figure to the current insect collapse: 27% in the last 30 years. Why is this significant? Why should we care? Because insects pollinate our food. Insects are necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
If you are at middle age or older, think about your childhood. Do you remember all the fire flies on a summer night? So many that you couldn’t count? Do you remember being constantly chased by bees? I do. Not any more, however.
Native plants not only provide food, shelter, and a breeding ground for insects, but the roots of the native plants are much longer than lawn grass. Long roots filter pollutants and provides clean water. Best of all, native plants do not require extra water or fertilizers. Once established there’s no need to water because they are drought tolerant. Win for humans – win for insects. +/+
My native front lawn is being planted in stages. A few last year were planted, a few this year. Eventually the plants will cover the area. The neat thing about this yard is that something will be blooming in every season. When it blooms, I will feature the plant and provide some neat facts. Today, wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) is in bloom. This is the second year of its growth.
Wild geranium is easy to grow. It has beautiful leaves and it supports a host of insects. On the pink flower, you will find stripes leading to the center. This is called the nectar guide.
Insects that benefit from nectar and pollen:
- mason bees
- cuckoo bees
- long-horned bees
- Halictid bees
- Andronid bees
- Syrphid flies
- dance flies
Insects that benefit from the leaves and stems:
- Leaf-mining larvae of the beetle Pachyshelus purpureus
- geranium aphids
- yellow plant bug
- burrowing bug
- stink bug
- moth caterpillars
These insect stats were taken from the Illinois Wildflower site.
If you are interested in creating a native habitat, small or large, and you live in the Chicagoland area, Denise from Good-Natured Landscapes can help with your design. She knows native plants…which ones thrive in shade/sun or a combination of both. Which ones work well together, what season they bloom, and what insects they benefit.
Soon my golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) will bloom! I can see the buds! To be continued…