Welcome to St. Louis Native Plants!
Since I began using native plants back in 2010, not only have I barely watered and never fertilized, I have also noticed more bugs, birds, and bats in and around my yard. These are not things to be afraid of and I would like this site to be source of information that encourages people to work with and exist alongside our native flora and fauna.
First, bats and birds both eat a lot of bugs. I am going to take this opportunity to dispel some bat rumors. Bats are no more likely to carry rabies than other animals such as dogs, cats, raccoons, possums, etc. Bats have decent eyesight as well as a sonar-like sensory called echolocation so they are not likely to bump into your head while in pursuit of the close to 1000 mosquitos they can eat in an hour. They hardly deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten.
Now onto birds. Birds are fun to watch and hear. The majority of birds rear their young on insects because bugs have the most protein pound for pound. Birds and bats are both attracted to and consume bugs.
This is where pesticides become a problem. Not only do they wipe out ALL bugs indiscriminately, but they also can harm the animals which eat affected bugs. Furthermore, if we kill off the primary food source for these animals, they will disappear to someplace where they can find their food source. Point being, pesticides outside of the home can be extremely harmful to the ecosystem.
Lastly, native plants attract mostly native bugs. Many of these bugs benefit us, such as the large numbers of native bees that pollinate more efficiently than the non-native European honeybee. But other bugs and animals besides bees pollinate too: beetles, flies, ants, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats just to name a handful. Other bug “lifestyles” that benefit us are dragonflies’ and praying mantis’ appetite for bugs such as mosquitos. Bugs are so important for pollination and feeding other wildlife.
There was a time before humans deeply affected the ecosystem when large amounts of native birds and bats fed on native bugs everywhere, which were attracted to and fed on native plants’ nectar, pollen, leaves and roots. These organisms all evolved to best suite each other. For example, certain bumble bees can get nectar and pollen from long cylindrical flowers because they have long tongues. Other bees are better fit for flowers which are not so deep and slender, i.e. short tongued bees. Many bugs are specialists and specialize on certain native plants because this is what they evolved with over time.
My personal landscaping goals have changed from finding beautiful plant groupings that provide year-round interest to include use of plants that will best benefit wildlife. My yard now buzzes with excitement. It was somewhat sterile just a few years ago. This change occurred when my landscaping and ways of dealing with insects changed.
Check out this site for ongoing posts featuring one or some of the following: a plant, bug, animal, and/or habitat. Specimens will be chosen mostly based on the time of year in which they are active or have a notable characteristic. There may be repeats as some specimens have more than one season when they are of interest.