Only a real man can wear a tie with butterflies on it. ~ Doug Tallamy
Besides being entirely suitable that a famous entomologist be so attired, how can one not like the man who made this self-deprecating remark during his keynote address at a recent symposium?
Doug Tallamy is Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He also wrote one of my favorite books, Bringing Nature Home/How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. Naturally, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to hear him in person when he appeared as part of the St. Louis Garden Blitz on March 3, 2012, at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Tallamy has the utmost respect for plants and understands their fundamental importance. “Plants are major miracles of nature,” he said. “Plants eat sunlight,” he continued and produce huge amounts of food through the process of photosynthesis. This food is eaten by insects that in turn are eaten by other animals and so on up the food chain.
One of Tallamy's thesisses is that insects need native plants as food sources—not introduced or alien plants. “Insects can only survive with plants they share an evolutionary history,” he said.
Not a fan of the business of horticulture. Tallamy is not at all complimentary about the horticulture industry and actually blames them for some of our current issues. Rather than offering plant choices that could be an integral part of a landscape’s ecosystem, he said, “Horticulture taught that plants are decorations. Plants might as well be plastic.” He blamed the industry for some devastating diseases, including chestnut blight, and declared, “85% of the invasive plants were introduced by the horticulture industry.”
Homegrown Park. Tallamy’s idea to fix this mess is a simple one. Homeowners in the U.S. need to change the way they garden in two significant but easily doable ways. 1. Reduce amount of lawn. 2. Plant good plants.
Everyone’s garden would connect to everyone else’s and we could have a spectacular natural area of 40 million acres. His choice for a name is Homegrown Park.
Final thoughts from Tallamy. From Bringing Nature Home: …for the first time in its history, gardening has taken on a role that transcends the needs of the gardener. Like it or not, gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife. It is now within the power of individual gardeners to something that we all dream of doing: to ‘make a difference.’
In a more dire tone, he told the symposium attendees: We need to share the earth. If not, we’ll disappear.
Photo above by Doug Tallamy. Tallamy is an outstanding photographer and his talk was augmented with gorgeous close-ups of insects, caterpillars, butterflies, birds and plants.