(Shagbark Hickory-Carya ovata supports 235 butterfly/moth species.)
What is a native plant?
What is their significance?
What happened to these communities?
(Metropolitans and Agricultural lands in between have ecological consequences.)
The cost of our lifestyles
Nature natural nevermoreThere was a time in which nature was a self-sustaining/recycling/maintaing natural system. But we've disturbed it so drastically, and quickly, then introduced so many pathogens, foreign insects, and foreign plants that the reality is, for us to retain some remnant of the biodiversity that once was prevalent in this country, we must actively maintain our preserved natural areas. We've already lost the majority of multiple tree species from foreign pathogen and insects, Elms, Chestnuts, Hemlocks, Ash Trees, and Butternuts are all in danger of becoming extinct within the century, or ecologically irrelevant. Prairies are being invaded by non-native grasses and forbs, forests are failing to reforest in areas where canopy gaps are filled by honeysuckle, young forests are smothered by invasive vines like kudzu, wetlands are now susceptible to purple loostrife and non-native cattail monocultures. After all that we have done, nothing is safe, nothing can be left to it's "own devices" as we've imported devices in the form of invasive plants, pathogens, and insects from other countries. This is now a challenge, that will require education, dedication, innovation, and inspiration to retain and restore the biological heritage of this country. Even in this hour of species loss, continual land/environmental degradation, and great biodiversity threats, remains time and opportunity for our metropolitans to become leaders in giving ecosystems a helping hand.
The place is here, the time is now (Reconciliation Ecology)79% of Americans now live in cities. Cities and their metropolitan areas are also the biggest sources of pollution and quite uninhabitable for some wildlife. But we do have a clear choice in the society we want to build within our cities. For biodiversity to return, we need native plants, the foundation of these ancient communities. Our natural areas or undeveloped areas within our metropolitans sport the heaviest concentrations of non-native invasive plants in comparison to any other human dominated community. These areas are most often private property, but often to public property, right aways, and even park systems. With 79% of our population living within cities, man power is not what is lacking. Awareness, organization, and environmental stewardship is what is lacking. So how do we raise awareness about native plants, biodiversity, and invasive plants? I'd like to look towards the future, and focus on where the children/stewards of tomorrow are, churches and schools. Where there is a lawn there is a way and replacing un-recreationally used lawn with prairie land management saving schools and churches on their maintenance costs while providing the children and their parents an environmental educational infrastructure for learning about native plants, biodiversity, and invasive plants, I believe is a model that can be replicated from metropolitan to metropolitan. My private sector business is focused on providing this opportunity to the youth and their respective organizations whether it be churches or schools. Empowering/educating the youth is just one of many steps that must be taken to create the awareness required to instill the environmental stewardship needed to give nature a second chance, but let's look at other pieces of the puzzle also.
Where there's a lawn there's a wayAs I said before, America manages over 40 million acres as lawn, about half and half split between residential and commercial/industrial sectors. Lawn is useful for recreation and sports, pathways, and other functional purposes. The reality is though, many of our +.5 acre lots are never used to their recreation potential simply because it is not needed. Since we have been presented no clear alternatives, we often end up paying for multiple acres of lawn to be mowed per year just because our hospital, church, office park, or other place of work bought a lot that big. Lawn equipment alone accounts for 5% of U.S. annual carbon emission, it is one of the biggest sources of water pollution from fertilizer and pesticide run-off, and is not only the most irrigated plant in America compared to any agricultural crop, it is the largest single source of water use in the residential sector. The environmental ethics behind excess lawn is enough to call for change, but species extinction from ecosystem replacement I think is another urgent reason to rethink our land management practices. Ohio was at one point over 90% forest and less than 10% prairie/wetland. When you see acres of lawn that support very little wildlife, try to envision the incredible virgin forests long removed from the very land we now manage as lawn today. All of the organisms that once relied on these acres we now manage as lawn will not return as long as we continue our lawn land management ways. If we could approach organizations with excess lawn that is not used functionally, and slowly but surely give it back to nature successionally starting with prairie land management as trees slowly grow in to create a savannah or forest habitat, we can create a patchwork of habitats for wildlife throughout our throughly "lawned" metropolitans. Along with these habitats we create and maintain (less intensely than weekly lawn mowing), we now offer our children safe good quality natural environments to play in and explore as opposed to the currently invasive plant choked wood lots we now have studded throughout the cities. While nuturing today's remaining wildlife, we have another opportunity to nuture tomorrow's stewards by large scale implementation of habitat restoration within our metropolitans. Where there is a lawn, there is truly a way.
(Wild Ones, a national native plant advocacy organization with local chapters)
So what's the "Native Plant" Craze About?
This movement has great purpose, much more than wildflower enthusiasm. We know our natural history, we know what what was here before our mass "development", we understand the continual regression of biodiversity and species extinction, we also see the large void in today's youth not knowing woods without honeysuckle, or native wildflowers on the wood edges.But these important messages are honestly not worth preaching to quire, so I urge you to connect, organize, and educate to help transform our metropolitans yard by yard, park by park, school by school, and lawn by lawn into the ecological haven we are capable of achieving.