In part one of this series, we talked about the importance of including keystone plants in your landscaping for the best benefit to wildlife. In part two, our focus is on the importance of diversity.
Most of our insects are specialists, meaning they can only eat from a handful of plants. Some, like Zebra swallowtails and monarchs, can only eat one type of plant. Zebra swallowtail caterpillars can only feed on pawpaw leaves, while monarch caterpillars can only feed on milkweed. Without their host plants, there are no butterflies. This goes for many different types of insects. Why does this matter?
While plants capture the energy from the sun, insects must convert that energy to feed the rest of the food web. All the things we enjoy seeing in nature are ultimately reliant on native plants as their food source, either directly or indirectly by the consumption of insects.
Plants from other countries are not digestible by most of our native insects.
Also, the more diversity we build in, the more checks and balances are there to prevent insects from demolishing your plants. If you’re seeing an excess of plant damage, rather than reaching for chemical controls, bring in more diversity in your plantings, and you’ll attract predator insects to take care of the imbalance for you!
Lastly, diversity in your plant choices provides a variety of structural support for wildlife. Birds and rabbits need nesting sites, butterflies need hiding places at night, moths during the day, and everything needs a place to shelter during incumbent weather.
As a bonus, diversity builds in visual interest that we humans also enjoy. Different colors of flowers, blooming at different times, nuts, fruit and fall colors can all be layered in so our plantings look beautiful and intentional year-round. And this is how we win over others to our cause!