Sunday, September 8, 2019

A celebration of local flavor

What an amazing morning at our home. It was cool, cloudy and calm. Had we not been working outside, we might have missed the feeding frenzy.  Our trees were literally dripping with tiny, colorful birds plucking caterpillars from our black gums, hickories, oaks and maples.  These tiny birds were embarking on long journeys.  Just as you and I would if we were flying 1,000s of miles using our own muscle power, migrating birds must prepare and fuel [eat to store fat that they acquire from insects] for the arduous trip. Research has shown that native plants provide nutrients these birds need to make the journey. We were happy to see our hard work removing invasives and restoring native plants was working.

I encourage you to check out Doug Tallamy’s, E.O. Wilson’s, or Michael McCarthy’s work. Doug Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” is an excellent resource. The information these three experts share is simply fun!

Someone told me that there was a recent article that concludes we have too much bird research. Another person shared that a few folks felt the focus on native plants is narrow-minded and exclusive of different human cultures. I thought, “Wow, we are just beginning to understand our impacts and have so much to learn. Frankly, we know little about the impacts of our actions, especially when we continue to change the game. We have a track record of practices that are fatal to many organisms on this planet. And, no. Going native is just the opposite – going native is a celebration of diversity!”

Ironically, we travel to experience differences, many times to experience the local flavor. Doesn’t it make sense then to experience and enjoy that local plant and wildlife flavor right here? Let’s celebrate our native plants, not destroy them. Let’s make our neighborhoods biodiverse and filled with plants that do not create monocultures or cause harm to our native ecosystems, our economy, or human health.  Let’s celebrate organisms that have evolved together in a particular place over long periods of time.  It is this phenomena that created such a diverse planet! It is a shame to eliminate such diversity.  Just look at Indiana. There are many different ecosystems in Indiana. The northern part of the state near the Great Lakes is much different than the middle of the state, or the southern part of the state. And each of these three large regions are filled with many types of habitat that support different species of plants and wildlife. Let’s work to remove the sameness that we have created by landscaping our yards and our cities with plants that evolved elsewhere. Let’s take the challenge and celebrate our native plants and animals and the differences that occur naturally.

Please engage with your local ecological experts. Take a walk in a natural area near you and enjoy the native plants that support so many other species. Contact a local land trust, of SICIM at email to find your local Indiana Invasive Species Regional Specialist or Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA). They will help you find the resources and information you need to take the challenge and celebrate diversity at it’s finest.