Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded

Paperback(Second Edition, Revised)

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“If you cut down the goldenrod, the wild black cherry, the milkweed and other natives, you eliminate the larvae, and starve the birds. This simple revelation about the food web—and it is an intricate web, not a chain—is the driving force in Bringing Nature Home.” —The New York Times

As development and subsequent habitat destruction accelerate, there are increasing pressures on wildlife populations. In Bringing Nature Home, Douglas W. Tallamy reveals the unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife—native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants. When native plants disappear, the insects disappear, impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals. In many parts of the world, habitat destruction has been so extensive that local wildlife is in crisis and may be headed toward extinction.
But there is an important and simple step we can all take to help reverse this alarming trend: everyone with access to a patch of earth can make a significant contribution toward sustaining biodiversity by simply choosing native plants. By acting on Douglas Tallamy's practical and achievable recommendations, we can all make a difference.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780881929928
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Edition description: Second Edition, Revised
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 49,524
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 95 research publications and has taught insect related courses for 39 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book Bringing Nature Home was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers' Association. The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, was published in 2014. Doug's new book Nature's Best Hope will be available February 2020. Among his awards are the Garden Club of America Margaret Douglas Medal for Conservation and the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence, and the 2018 AHS B.Y. Morrison Communication Award.

Read an Excerpt

Restoring Natives to Suburbia: A Call to Action
Gardeners enjoy their hobby for many reasons: a love of plants and nature, the satisfaction that comes from beautifying home and community, the pleasures of creative effort, the desire to collect rare or unusual species, and the healthful benefits of exercise and outdoor air. For some people, like my wife and me, there is pleasure in just watching plants grow.

But now, 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 do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference. In this case, the “difference” will be to the future of biodiversity, to the native plants and animals of North America and the ecosystems that sustain them.

For decades, many horticulture writers have been pleading for a fresh appreciation of our American flora, and for almost as long they have been largely (or entirely) ignored. For several reasons, however, the day of the native ornamental is drawing near; the message is finally beginning to be heard. If I were to ask a random group of gardeners to comment on the importance of native plants in their gardens, they would probably recount several arguments that have been made in recent years in favor of natives over alien ornamentals. They might describe the “sense of place” that is created by using plants that “belong” or the dangers of releasing yet another species of invasive alien to outcompete and smother native vegetation. They might recognize the costly wastefulness of lawns populated with alien grasses that demand high-nitrogen fertilizers, broad-leaf herbicides, and pollution-belching mowers. Or they might mention the imperative of rescuing endangered native plants from extinction. These are all well-documented reasons for the increasing popularity of growing native plants.

Owners of native nurseries are also finding it easier and easier to enumerate the benefits of their offerings. Native plants are well adapted to their particular ecological niche and so are often far less difficult to grow than species from other altitudes, latitudes, and habitats. After all, these plants evolved here and were growing just fine long before we laid our heavy hands on the landscape.

Most compelling to me, however, is the use of native species to create simplified vestiges of the ecosystems that once made this land such a rich source of life for its indigenous peoples and, later, for European colonists and their descendants. That most of our ecosystems are no longer rich is beyond debate, and today, most of the surviving remnants of the native flora that formed them have been finished off by development or invaded by alien plant species. Too many Oak Parks, Hickory Hills, and Fox Hollows—developments named, as the environmentalist Bill McKibben has noted, for the bit of nature they have just extirpated—have been built across the country. Although relatively small, strategically placed and connected patches of completely restored habitats might foster the survival of some of our wildlife, I will describe later why such habitat islands can only protect a tiny fraction of the species that once thrived in North America. With 300 million human souls already present in the United States and no national recognition of the limits of our land’s ability to support additional millions, we simply have not left enough intact habitat for most of our species to avoid extinction. All species need space in order to dodge the extinction bullet. So far we have not shared space very well with our fellow earthlings. In the following pages, I hope to convince you that, for our own good and certainly for the good of other species, we must do better. Native plants will play a disproportionately large role in our success.

The transition from alien ornamentals to native species will require a profound change in our perception of the landscaping value of native ornamentals. Europeans first fell in love with the exotic beauty of plants that evolved on other continents when the great explorers returned home with beautiful species no one had ever seen before. It quickly became fashionable and a signal of wealth and high status to landscape with alien ornamentals that no one else had access to. As the first foreign ornamentals became more common in the landscape, the motivation to seek new alien species increased. Even today, the drive to obtain unique species or cultivars is a primary factor governing how we select plants for our landscapes.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Rick Darke
1. Restoring Natives to Suburbia: A Call to Action                
2. The Vital New Role of the Suburban Garden    
3. No Place to Hide          
4. Who Cares about Biodiversity?               
5. Why Can’t Insects Eat Alien Plants?     
6. What Is Native and What Is Not?          
7. The Costs of Using Alien Ornamentals 
8. Creating Balanced Communities            
9. Gardening for Insect Diversity
10. Blending In with the Neighbors           
11. Making It Happen
12. What Should I Plant?               
13. What Does Bird Food Look Like?         
14. Answers to Tough Questions                
Afterword: The Last Refuge         
Appendix 1: Native Plants with Wildlife Value and Desirable Landscaping Attributes by Region      
Appendix 2: Host Plants of Butterflies and Showy Moths
Appendix 3: Experimental Evidence          

Customer Reviews

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Bringing Nature Home-Rev and Exp 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Asclepias More than 1 year ago
As a landscape professional, I think this is a book to live by. I was educated in traditional horticulture, and slowly began to find that the contrived and sterile landscapes that we are somewhat accustomed to are a detriment to our environment and a resource drain. I found this book to be well written, well researched and fairly easy to read. Mr. Tallamy outlines statistics that are mind boggling. Everyone should read this book, because after reading it you won't look at your backyard, neighborhood, or public spaces the same way again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A professional with our local Audubon Society recommended this book to my husband and me. We are building a new home surrounded by wonderful old trees and natural drainage. We wanted to enhance, not harm. This book gives great insight into the factors that lead to harm and the plants that enhance. Just what we needed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So wonderfully eye opening. Thoughts on how ecosystems work have changed in the past decade and he really shows how it all works together...and How and Why we should help. We are fixing the landscape of our new house and I am thrilled to have read this before going out to buy any trees, shrubs and other plants. Planting the right tree is a small thing that can really help our community!
gypsyatheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant and instructive! This book will change how you view the natural world around you in the urban and suburban setting!
juniperSun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent explanation of why we need biodiversity: insects are necessary as the protein source for most of our loved birds and wildlife, and most plant-eating insects have evolved/adapted to specific plants, so that lawns and imported plants are a desert to them. Lots of great photos making his point. Since I've read a lot on this topic, all the rehash of what I already knew did get a bit tedious, but was easy enough to skim thru. My one quibble with his concept is he seems to say that changing our suburban landscape will be sufficient. I know there are some birds and animals that are not that willing to get so close to humans--they need deep woods for their habitat. By acknowledging that our national parks and preserves are not enough and that we need suburbs to harbor wildlife also, we cannot conversely say that we can now dismantle our preserves.That's the first part of the book. If everyone switched to native plants and decreased lawn size for their landscaping, it would help a lot to make our lifestyle sustainable. Tallamy even includes ideas for fitting in with the neighborhood --native landscaping does not equal neglect & ragged weeds.The second section describes 22 species that support the most insect life. There is no gardening advice, this is more a planning guide.The third section describes 52 insect species: "What bird food looks like" (which is a nice way of saying "don't be squeamish" and reminding us that--besides their role as pollinators-- we don't really want to wipe out all insect life). Tallamy found some interesting fact to share for most species.Appendices include 1) a list of native plants by region--shade trees, conifers, understory trees & shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials for dry or wet sites, grasses/sedges/rushes, ferns. 2)list of butterflies/moths and their host plants. 3)references (he is a professor, after all)So get it, read it, use it--get with the program!
libgarden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though I have been an organic gardener for some time, and have worked to create a healthy habitat for birds and other wildlife in my yard and garden, this book completely changed my understanding and view of insects. Doug Tallamy, an entomologist, makes the case for ecologically healthy gardening practices that can make a positive impact on wildlife threatened by suburban development. By something as simple as replacing alien plants with natives plants, we can re-establish biodiversity and save the "ecosystem-sustaining matrix of insects and animals" (Carol Haggas). This is one of those books that shows how small actions can make a big impact. It is a book I wish everyone would read.
peacegarden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book changed my mind about the gardens I was planning. All those "trouble free" non natives that I adore have unintended consequences...oops! It is not only convincing in its premise, but offers list upon list of native pants to substitute in the landscape.Can't recommend this on enough!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr. Tallamy sets out the extraordinary linkage between flora and fauna, as well as compelling arguments why restoring our native landscapes counts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Greaet information and inspired me to garden better. I've bought 9 copies as gifts...always well received. His new book is more practical guidance if that's what you are looking for. Can't recommend this book highly enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any one who has a yard should read this. Any one who cares about nature should read this too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago