Native Plants: Sustaining the Circle of Life
Katie Owens is a member of the 2016 Urban Naturalist Program. She is studying Environmental Science and Journalism at Indiana University. As a part of the Urban Naturalist team, Katie has the opportunity to work on a variety of green-job inspired projects while tending to Indy’s native landscape.
They say man has been altering the environment ever since the dawn of humanity, utilizing its resources for his own benefit. Little do we know that the disruption of the natural cycle inhibits the freedom and survival of our wildlife. We now must take on the task of restoring the natural ecosystems surrounding us. However, simply plugging some plants and trees in the ground don’t always do the trick. One very important lesson I’ve learned since becoming an Urban Naturalist is the significance of planting native plants in our gardens and landscapes. Only a small percent of land in the United States belongs to complete wilderness or forests/parks due to a rapid growth in urban sprawl. This has created a need for more urban/residential developments and farmland. To make room for a continuously growing human population, trees are cut down, ecosystems are destroyed, and native wildlife has nowhere else to turn but urban areas – where they are typically being seen as “pests.”
We can help restore our natural environment by building and maintaining green spaces throughout urban, residential areas; while also keeping our city and state parks in check. But not just any plants will do—each unique environment contains a certain array of plants and trees that existed before human interference. These plants host certain insects that are physically unable to eat from other plants. If an insect’s host plant is scarce or nonexistent, it will no longer have a source of food and the species in that area will die off. Birds need thousands of these insects (mostly caterpillars) each day to feed their offspring. But, if the bugs are scarce then the birds must travel farther away from their nests to find food, and that often isn’t enough. By recognizing the role native plants play in the health of our environment, we can organize our gardening and landscaping to allow people and nature to thrive. Our society increasingly stresses the importance of these animals to our natural world, as evident by last month’s Pollinators Awareness Week. The Pollinator Partnership initiated this awareness week to address a growing concern for the decline of our natural pollinators—bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles. Take advantage of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s city-wide pollinator count this week to acknowledge and celebrate our pollinators. Visit the KIB website to download a Count Kit and organize an event at your school, church, neighborhood, community. Not only do pollinator’s survival depend on us, but the survival of man depends on them as well.