Master Gardener: Create native, enjoyable habitat
BY BILL SEVIER Ask a Master Gardener
Saturday, October 20, 2012
10/20/12 at 5:30 AM
Q. I would like to grow some plants native to Oklahoma. Where do I start? - Janie, Tulsa.
A. Planting natives is a great idea, and the Tulsa chapter of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society and nurseries in our area are a great place to start looking. The Master Gardeners at the OSU Extension Office in Tulsa also have useful free information about reading material and nursery resources. This information was put together by a Rogers County Master Gardener native plant enthusiast.
We forget that much of our landscape is populated by imports. Things like apples, wheat and alfalfa aren't native. Many of the attractive and useful shrubs and trees in our landscapes are also imported, especially from Asia. Other common non natives include dandelions, Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda grass and Japanese honeysuckle. Some of these, such as Kudzu, are destructive and difficult to control.
Ecologists estimate that the majority of our land in the lower 48 states has been modified for human use. This use includes our lawns, agriculture, buildings and roadways. By planting natives we can not only create a habitat that we enjoy, but also help restore some of the plant biodiversity on which a large portion of our native wildlife depend. If we lose native plants, we lose important wildlife species.
To find some examples of plants and the dependency of other wildlife, go no further than our native butterflies. Some plants are exclusive hosts to caterpillars, which are the immature stage of butterflies, and other types of plants are needed for adult butterflies to feed on.
The beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly caterpillar only feeds on native pawpaw trees. Monarch butterfly caterpillars and adults need our milkweeds for both stages of development. The spicebush swallowtail butterfly is dependent on either native sassafras or spicebush shrubs. Black cherries and many other native plants sustain the large yellow Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly.
Birds are also dependent on certain types of plants, especially in winter. Important to them are the shrubs and trees which produce berries, such as black cherry, possum haw (deciduous holly), yaupon holly, sumac and rusty black haw. The yaupon holly is a food source for birds with its abundant berries, but also serves as a protective habitat due to its dense evergreen foliage.
We all should strive to "go native" when making our plant selections and help not only ourselves but also the environment.
If you have a garden-related question for the Master Gardeners to answer in a column, call 918-746-3701.
Original Print Headline: Create a habitat that's native but enjoyable
Plant container-grown trees and shrubs this month
Many perennials can be planted at this time and the selection is quite nice.
Purchase trees from nurseries and garden centers at this time to select the fall color you prefer.
Use a cold frame device to plant spinach, lettuce and various other cool-season crops for production most of the winter.
Plant cool-season cover crops like Austrian winter peas, wheat, clover and rye in otherwise fallow garden plots.
Many butterflies depend on native plants for food. WARREN WILLIAMS/Courtesy