Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas W. Tallamy
Rating: 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳/5 Trees
Genres: Non-Fiction, Gardening, Nature
Summary: In his first book, Doug Tallamy explains clearly, convincingly, and entertainingly the benefits of using native plants in the home landscape.
Douglas Tallamy has recently become the most vocal proponent of using native plants in suburban landscapes. An entomologist at University of Delaware, Dr. Tallamy has been featured on NPR, in The Washington Post, and in The New York Times, in addition to other publications and broadcasts. He has also written four books, the first of which we will review here.
If you were unsure about including native plants in your garden, you will certainly be convinced of their value by the end of this book.
In Bringing Nature Home, Tallamy builds a strong case for the benefits of native plants. The premise of this book is that humans and nature can coexist. In fact, he argues that we need to coexist. There has been a significant and measurable decline in wildlife populations in this country, and the primary culprits are overdevelopment and the introduction of non-native alien plant species. This has resulted in fragmented wild spaces, meaning that planting natives in suburban backyards is our best chance to increase habitat and food supply.
Throughout the book, Tallamy takes the reader step-by-step and explains why alien plants are inferior to native plants, reframes the discussion around what we consider native, makes a strong argument for considering balance and biodiversity when gardening, and shows that a native garden can look just as beautiful as traditionally non-native gardens.
Perhaps the most valuable section of Tallamy’s book is where he answers the question, “What Should I Plant?” (145). Earlier he explains that scientists have discovered many keystone species throughout the natural world. These species “are more important to the sustainability of ecosystems than others” (41). Tallamy identifies twenty plant genera that are keystones in eastern North America, and he ranks these by the number of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth species) they host. Lepidoptera caterpillars are the preferred food for birds and their young as well as other small animals. Tallamy’s list provides a comprehensive guide to which genera are most valuable to an ecologically diverse landscape.
For example, if a home gardener wants to attract a wide range of butterflies and moths to their property, as well as the birds that feed on their caterpillars, then planting oaks is recommended. Oaks host over 500 Lepidoptera species and provide habitat and food for a wide variety of wildlife.
Tallamy concludes with a call-to-action: “Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological consequences have never been so high.”
If you are interested in playing an active role in Tallamy’s efforts, we highly recommend that you check out his website, Homegrown National Park.