Thursday, January 6, 2011

April 21: Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens

Douglas Tallamy might be considered this century’s leading “tree hugger,” without the derisive connotation and with a sustainability spin.

Tallamy, a professor and chair of the entomology and wildlife ecology department at the University of Delaware, believes that biodiversity is an essential, non-renewable natural resource that people are forcing to extinction. It should be protected, just as air and water are, he says.

His argument, which he will share with an audience of the Connecticut Horticultural Society on April 21 in West Hartford, goes like this:

Consider plants and animals as the rivets that hold together the ecosystems that sustain life. Evidence shows that the richer the biodiversity, the more stable the ecosystem is. Ninety percent of herbivorous insects are species-specific, meaning they survive by eating a particular native plant. When native plants disappear, so do food sources for the insects, birds and other animals that co-evolved with the plants.

When, on a grand scale, we obliterate swaths of habitat or, on a minute scale, plant the newest cultivar from Asia or Costa Rica, we do our part to continue to imperil the estimated 33,000 species that are threatened or endangered in the United States, Tallamy argues. Thus, he says, gardening is about choices that carry moral and ecological responsibilities.

His views, expressed in his book “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” (Timber Press, 2007, 2009), have gained him an impassioned following. Some people say his message is as seminal as Rachel Carson’s in “Silent Spring.” Her 1962 book about the use of chemical pesticides is credited with helping to start that era’s environmental movement (when tree hugger took root in the lexicon and laws were enacted to clean up the air and water).

Tammar Stein, writing for the St. Petersburg Times, called Tallamy’s book “a call to arms. There is not much ordinary citizens can do to create large new preserves. But we can make better use of the small green spaces we have around our houses. While the situation in the United States is quite serious, Tallamy offers options that anyone with a garden, even a postage-stamp-sized one like mine, can do to help.”

Tallamy challenges audiences to add more native plants and trees to their landscapes and to help restore open spaces by, for example, ridding them of invasive plants.

"The way we garden...and landscape today is going to determine what life looks like tomorrow," he told Lawn & Landscape magazine. "Let's not give up on aesthetics, but let's not give up on function." 

Everyone is welcome to attend Doug Tallamy's talk on Thursday, April 21, 2011. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. (7 p.m. for socializing) at Emanuel Synagogue160 Mohegan Dr.West HartfordConn. The fee for non-CHS members is $10; free for full-time students with identification. Contact: 860-529-8713. Copies of “Bringing Nature Home” will be sold at the meeting for $15 ($3 off the list price). 

Copies of The Garden Conservancy's national directory of 2011 Open Days gardens will also be sold at the meeting.  The price is $15 -- significantly less than the $21.95 price if ordered online.

Native Plant Resources
- USDA National Invasive Species Information Center

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