In this episode I interview Dr. Douglas Tallamy, Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.
Dr. Tallamy’s work changed my view of both what “native plant” means, and the role of permaculture practitioners as designers have to use them in the landscape. I originally began from a position that “exotic and invasive plants are here, we should use them as best we can, and manage them in areas under our purview” and became one of “consider native plants first and foremost wherever possible, to the point of replacing non-natives, and removing invasives.”. This change occurred because Dr. Tallamy’s definition of a native plant, which starts off our interview, isn’t arbitrary and makes sense in the context of the number of relationships I seek to build into a design. The amount of diversity increases because of the insects, birds, and other creatures these plants invite into the landscape. All of that is supported by large amounts of clear evidence. You can hear some of that evidence with a personal story from Dr. Tallamy about Carolina Chickadees in his own back yard and where that research took him.
In addition to native vs. non-native plants and the impact they have on the environment, we also discuss the movement of flora and fauna due to climate change, invasion biology vs conservation or restoration biology, the evolutionary time-line for animals to adapt to introduced plants, which is much slower than you might expect, the role of science in education in understanding these issues, and some resources for learning more about what you can do to find out more about your own native plants.
As permaculture practitioners, or those with an interest in this form of regenerative design, the first place we begin our knowledge is with the ethics. First among those is earth care. As you listen to this interview and pursue more on the topic, consider that ethic and the role that native plants has on fulfilling that ethic by building a more dynamic, diverse, and stable food web for other life, and in turn our own.
However this conversation is framed, it is likely to be a contentious one. Let’s work together to add to the discussion so that permaculture can continue to evolve and grow with the new knowledge and opportunities we are presented with. Join in by leaving a comment for this show. Together we can continue to design a better world.
If you would like to learn more about native plants in your area, start with you favorite search engine. Search for “Native Plants in ” and finish that sentence with your state or territory.