Critters in Lawns versus Native Landscapes

Critters in Lawns versus Native Landscapes

As I mentioned in my blog on replacing our lawn with native and drought-tolerant plants our landscaping now offers a home for a variety of butterflies, birds, lizards and insects.

What took over our dead lawn soon within weeks after planting?

  • An Anna’s hummingbird claimed the new landscape soon after we planted
  • One pair of California towhees immediately started working the ground, mining the pillbugs that have multiplied under the mulch (as well as attacking the mirrors on our vehicles parked nearby, the male I assume…)
  •  Others include numerous ladybugs that eat the aphids, an assortment of butterflies, and yes, plenty of bees. 

And – because something higher up on the natural food chain takes advantage, there’s little worry about pests. One example, we had an outbreak of tent caterpillars that decimated the leaves  of one plant, a Cobb Mountain lupine, as well as some kind of beetle that ate the roots of our soft-leaved yuccas. But a combination of the beetles, which just happen to like tent caterpillars, and cold weather seemed to take care of the tent caterpillars, and the lupine is now growing new leaves. (One yucca did not….)

Wildlife attracted to the landscaping in our San Diego and our Redlands yards:

Viewpoint from a Biologist PhD

We purchased most of our plants at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont CA, 86 mature acres filled with towering toyons and 40 foot fremontia ‘trees’.  Lucinda McDade is their Director of Research (also the Botany Department chair at Claremont Graduate University) — she gave the example of one salvia (sage) at her home, whose flowers attract not only bees, their main pollinators, but hummingbirds. “Then when I go to trim it, I scare off a whole flock of goldfinches attracted to its seeds, birds that wouldn’t be there if it was lawn,” she said.

McDade says the value of lawns would improve if people let their grass grow so it makes seed, but that’s not what people seek with their lawns, who calls the green expanses ‘biotic deserts’ especially in areas with low rainwater.

Additionally, many people negate any value of lawns with the chemicals from lawn care products. I agree with her viewpoint that it makes perfect sense to have a grassy area where kids play.

Otherwise, plant natives or plants suited to your environment – and see what critters emerge…

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.

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