By Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard
by Douglas W. Tallamy
I hear the human race
Is fallin’ on its face
And hasn’t very far to go,
But ev’ry whippoorwill
Is sellin’ me a bill,
And tellin’ me it just ain’t so.
Song by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers
Climate change, species extinction, plague and pestilence. It is hard to be an optimist when bombarded by the issues of our times. Here in Minnesota, the decline of native pollinator species has become one of several major concerns related to our changing ecology. Against this darkening background, Doug Tallamy’s latest book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard is indeed a beacon of reassurance.
Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy is Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He has studied the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. One key finding of his studies has been the interdependence of native pollinator insects and native plants. The two have evolved together in the North American habitat for tens of thousands of years, developing a critical symbiosis. Plants provide food and breeding grounds for pollinators. Pollinators provide fertilization services for the plants. Both in turn provide nourishment for other species in the interdependent native biosphere. With the advent of European colonization this interdependence has been gradually but inexorably broken as non-native plant species and humans replace a carefully balanced ecosystem with urban blight and suburban sterility.
Tallamy’s writings not only document this decline but also provide straightforward advice as to how to reverse it. A small patch of milkweed can nourish Monarch butterflies on their migrations. Asters can sustain numerous pollinators in the fall when other flower blooms are exhausted. Tallamy provides extensive lists of native plants appropriate to the various regions of the country and various seasons of the year. As more and more homeowners restore native plants to their holdings, conservation corridors will appear, increasing the range and sustainability of beneficial insects, birds and other forms of wildlife that depend on their proliferation.
Readable and practical, Nature’s Best Hope is an invaluable addition to the library of any gardener who admires the beauty and values the preservation of our native habitat.