Landscaping with Native Plants

Altamont, TN (PressExposure) May 07, 2009 -- Features of Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Certifying your yard as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation is as simple as filing an application demonstrating that your yard provides wildlife with the following five elements.

1) Food. Grow native vegetation—like locally native shrubs, trees and other plants that produce nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, nectar, sap, pollen or browsing foliage—to supply food for wildlife. (For birds, feeders can supplement natural food sources.)

2) Water. Provide a constant, reliable source of water with a birdbath, pond or shallow dish. Most wildlife need water for drinking and bathing, and some species require it for breeding as well.

3) Cover. Create cover for wildlife with densely branched shrubs, hollow logs, rock piles, brush piles, stone walls, evergreens, meadow grasses and/or deep water. Cover protects wildlife against the elements and predators.

4) Places to Raise Young. Offer wildlife safe places for courtship and nurturing their young. Mature trees can provide den sites for squirrels and nesting places for birds. Host plants for caterpillars will ensure the presence of butterflies in your habitat. Salamanders, frogs and toads will raise their young in a pond or water garden.

5) Sustainable Gardening Practices. The way you garden or manage your landscape will impact wildlife in your yard and your entire neighborhood. Planting natives, eliminating chemicals and building healthy soil are just some of the things you can do to help wildlife and conserve natural resources.

After submitting the application and a $15 processing fee, habitats that provide all of the required elements will receive a Certificate of Achievement from NWF. The next step is to invite your neighbors to adapt and certify their landscapes so that wildlife will have larger contiguous corridors to in which to travel, forage and breed.

The Role of Native Plants Native plants feature prominently in a Backyard Wildlife Habitat, providing food, cover and places to raise young as well as contributing to sustainable gardening practices. The Skagit Conservation District suggests the following native plant species for attracting wildlife in western Washington: Vine maple, sugar maple, Pacific crabapple, kinnikinnick, red osier dogwood, wild strawberry, salal, oceanspray, Oregon grape, Indian plum, mock orange, Nootka rose, snowberry, American highbush cranberry, red flowering currant, evergreen huckleberry, twinberry, ninebark, arrowhead bulb, and small fruited bulrush. The National Wildlife Federation also offers regional lists of native plants that support wildlife.

Locally, Russell Link’s Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is an excellent reference. The book provides comprehensive and practical tips for designing and maintaining a wildlife habitat, selecting a variety of native plants to provide food and cover throughout the year, and building specific features such as ponds, nest boxes and bat houses. Link also describes the wildlife we are likely to attract to our local landscapes and how to best observe and interact with wild visitors.

Growing Wild Garden Consultations The Growing Wild program offers a one-time on-site garden consultation for people interested in native plant gardening, low maintenance gardening, and landscaping for wildlife, in return for a donation to WNPS. Consultations are available in King and Snohomish counties, only. Growing Wild volunteer consultants are recruited from the WNPS stewardship class and other programs, such as master gardening programs. Our aim is to get each gardener enthused about enriching their plot of land for the benefit of native plants and wildlife – and folks, too.

The Process: Visit, print out and complete the garden consultation application and mail it with your check to WNPS. A consultant will contact you to set up a time to visit you in your garden. You will receive a report from the consultant following the site visit as well as materials, including the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary kit from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. We hope you will complete a visit assessment form for us so that we can improve the usefulness of our program.

Program Cost: For the Growing Wild garden consultation we ask a donation of $75 for members of WNPS and $100 for non-members. Your $100 donation includes a one-year membership in the Washington Native Plant Society.

The Benefits: Growing Wild provides a consultation with specialists in many different aspects of gardening. The consultation gives you an opportunity to have your garden’s specific needs addressed. Your donation supports The Washington Native Plant Society.

Program Affiliations: Growing Wild is affiliated with the Wildlife Backyard Sanctuary program of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

If you would like more information about the Growing Wild garden consultations or if you are a WNPS Native Plant Steward and would like to volunteer to train to be a Growing Wild consultant, contact us by email at or by phone at 206-527-1204.

Native Plants for Artificial Ponds in Coastal Washington by Al Hanners This is a generic appraisal of native plants for display in artificial ponds in the northwest coastal areas of Washington State. It is based largely on investigations by the writer using watercraft on some twenty "natural" lakes and ponds between sea level and an elevation of 2000 feet in coastal Whatcom and Skagit Counties, and on contributions by colleagues in the Koma Kulshan and Salal Chapters of the Washington Native Plant Society that are much appreciated.

Selection of species Selection of species would depend on the size, depth, and slopes of the shorelines, steady maintenance or variation of water level in accordance with seasonal changes in nature, and the amount of dissolved oxygen. Final selection would depend on availability of plants. A number of nurseries specialize in native plants but probably not all species could be purchased. Species selected are listed by common habitat in the wild. Criteria for recommended and rejected species are given below.

Native plants that are truly native to the northwest coastal area. Colorful, or with distinctive morphology that would attract attention. Attractive species seldom seen and/or seldom identified by amateur botanists. Not aggressive. It is extremely difficult to control aggressive wetland plants. Free floating plants

Ricciacarpus natans, purple-fringed riccia, is an attractive liverwort with green fan-shaped lobes and purple rhizoids projecting at the edges. Spirodela polyrhiza, greater duckweed. Often with Lemna minor, lesser duckweed, and overlooked. It usually is reddish on one or both sides of the thalus. Rooted species for main body of the pond

Brasenia schreberi, watershield, should be considered. Floating leaves are on long, pink petioles with elliptic blades commonly more than 5 cms long, and are variegated reddish and yellowish much of the summer. Lovely purple flowers bloom only a short time. It is likely to spread where water depths are less than about one meter unless manually controlled.

Potamogeton natans, floating-leaved pondweed. This species is especially attractive because floating leaves usually are reddish starting about the middle of August or earlier. However, here is a note of caution. During a single summer it totally dominated shallow water on the sunny side of Bug Lake (a pond) in Bellingham.

Potamogeton epihydrous, ribbon-leaved pondweed. It often grows in water about 1 ½ to 2 meters deep. Rhizomatous, it commonly is seen in patches, but it is not aggressive. The blades for upper leaves are elliptic, or even almost diamond-shaped, and are on long petioles. Most of them float, but some may ascend well above water level, and hence, attract attention from shore. Rooted plants for shallow water near pond margins including those that could be stranded by mid-summer if the water level drops.

There are numerous attractive native species adapted to shallow water near shorelines. Hence, designing a pond with gently sloping near shore areas should be considered. Some of those species, in natural conditions, often are totally emergent by mid-summer. If kept partly submerged, some will die; others will become abnormally large. Moreover, if not partly submerged at least some of the year, they will die.

Ranunculus aquatilis var. capillaceus, water-buttercup. This species is attractive because all leaves, submerged or floating, are filiformly dissected. It grows near a muddy shoreline and prostrate stems root at the nodes. It could be expected to survive if stranded by a seasonal drop in water level.

Ranunculus flammula, creeping buttercup. The lower part of the stems are prostrate to decumbent and root at the nodes. The long leaf blades are more or less linear and on long petioles, thus attracting attention. Like R. aquatilis, R. flammula grows near a muddy shoreline. It could be expected to survive if stranded by a seasonal drop in water level. Polygonum amphibium, water smartweed. It has attractive reddish flowering heads. In vegetative state it is distinguished by floating leaves with midribs and lateral veins in contrast to floating leaves of Potamogetons with more or less parallel veins. Grows in shallow water not far from shore.

Menyanthes trifoliata, buckbean. It has strikingly beautiful, mostly white flowers, and it grows in water to a depth of about 2/3 meters. However, while the flowers have a bad odor that attracts insects, I have never heard anyone complain.

Potentilla palustris, marsh cinquefoil, grows in shallow water near shore. Sparganium emersum, narrow leaf burweed, grows near shore. It has attractive greenish white flowers in globular clusters. Alisma plantago-aquatica, water plantain. In natural settings, it is mostly on shore after water level drops by mid-summer. Hippuris vulgaris, mare's-tail, is an attractive, erect plant that could be totally emergent by mid-summer after the water level drops. Life in motion. Plants to attract dragonflies and blue damselflies.

Life in motion makes a pond much more attractive and adult dragonflies and damselflies spend a good deal of time about the pond where they have metamorphosed. The size of the stem and location of the plant, shallow water near shore or deeper water farther from shore, are said to be important factors in choice by larva as places to climb out of the water and metamorphose into adults.

Dulichium arundinaceum, Dulichium, is a member of the Sedge Family characterized by three ranks of upper stem leaves, and it is commonly found in shallow water on edges of ponds. It is a favorite species used by the larva of dragonflies to climb out of water and metamorphose into adults. After metamorphosing, adults leave the pond and later return, but not to the plant species where they metamorphosed.

Eleocharis palustris, spikerush, also is a member of the Sedge Family. It is characterized by a single leafless erect stem with a single terminal spikelet. It is common in shallow water at edges of lakes and ponds, and in standing water in marshes. The presence of both Dulichium and spikerushes on the edge of a pond would benefit dragonflies and promote life in motion at the pond.

Scirpus americanus, three-square bulrush, is part of the Sedge Family. It is a favorite plant used by larva of blue damselflies to climb out of water and metamorphose into adults. Unlike dragonflies, blue damselflies' favorite perch as adults are the species where they metamorphosed. Scirpus grows farther from shore and in water ½ to 1½ meters deep, in deeper water than Dulichium. Usually there are several stems and/or clumps of vegetative leaves originating from a single short rhizome. The fruiting heads consist of 1 to 3 spikes. Heads are seldom seen in freshwater lakes, possibly because muskrats eat them. The species is not aggressive. "Waterscaping" Plants on floating logs.

Nature abhors straight lines, and plant people love nature. "Waterscaping" a monotonous shoreline can require no more than using a stranded log to break an unchanging pond edge. Moreover, plant life can be grown on floating logs in sunny locations and would greatly enhance human interest.

Trees on banks of pond and lake margins tend to lean toward the water to secure more sunlight, and when they fall, the lower trunk often remains high and dry. The lower trunk does not support plant life unless it is already rotten because, unlike a raised bog, rain runs off instead of in. In natural conditions, water splashed by waves on a floating log, and saturation of most or all of a log by the water in which it is floating, are very important.

Complete saturation of a large log would require decades or even a century. Nature speeds up the process by moving floating logs downwind and jamming two or more logs together at the windward shore. Floating leaves from shore and/or uprooted aquatic plants move in the same direction and become lodged on the logs where they decay. In storms, waves stir up the bottom and silt and clay become trapped in the decaying organic matter. Hence, people could speed up the process by joining two logs side by side and adding organic matter with a little silt and clay.

Another method for speeding up the process of a log becoming suitable for growing plants is to use a router to cut a shallow trough in the top of a log and fill it with compost and organic soil.

In nature, mosses and lichens are likely to be pioneer species on a bare log. Pioneer species on logs at elevations of 2000 feet usually are the moss Calliergon gigantium and Carex leptalea. Pioneer species are followed by successional changes in plant species as more dead organic matter accumulates. Less commonly, Drosera rotundifolia, round-leaved sundew, is pioneer species. Drosera rotundifolia, while commonly occurring early in the order of succession, does better in somewhat mature conditions. It often grows on sphagnum along with Oxycoccus oxycoccos (Vaccinium oxycoccos), bog cranberry. Both species are very attractive and can be considered a "must". Round-leaved sundew is distinctive with sticky red leaves that catch insects and provide needed nutrients. The red color and lifestyle of sundews provide much human interest. Bog cranberries brighten the setting with reddish berries and stems.

In mature conditions, Carex lenticularis is the most common sedge, and Mimulus guttatus, yellow monkey flower, and grasses also appear. Angelica genuflexa, kneeling Angelica, is occasional. It usually turns red by late summer and adds color and interest.

Species not recommended

Algal "blooms" have deleterious effects on fresh water bodies, and cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, produce a foul odor. Care should be taken to avoid an influx of water containing phosphorus and introduction of algae with plants grown in contaminated waters. Decaying barley straw has been used for decades in Europe to control algal "blooms", and containers called barley balls can be purchased in the USA.

However, use of barley straw is controversial. Some published reports are favorable, some are not possibly because the cyanobacteria and other conditions are not identical. Dr. Robin Matthews says there are some 20 or 30 species of blue-green algae affecting water quality. The most common genera are Anabaena, Aphamizomen, and Microcystis that are disaffectionately called Annie, Fannie, and Mike.

Alien and native species not recommended are listed below.

Alien species

Lemna minor, lesser duckweed, is free floating, common, and attracts little attention. It forms extensive patches in stagnant water near shorelines. Moreover, if in the same pond with Ricciacarpus natans, the two species are likely to form unattractive tangled masses. Iris pseudacorus, yellow flag, spreads from floating seeds and spreading roots. It is extremely aggressive. Efforts to control it by pulling and digging leaves fragments of roots which re-sprout and create more plants. Tennant Lake Boardwalk and the Whatcom County Chuckanut Bay Wetlands are rapidly becoming monocultures of Iris psuedacorus. Lysimachia thrysiflora, tufted loosestrife, probably is Eurasian. It grows in shallow water near shore and usually in partial shade. It has colorful blooms. There are plenty of attractive native plants, so there is no need to plant a species that is at best questionably native. Nymphaea odorata, white water-lily and also the variety with pink flowers, is an eastern USA species. It forms a large patch in Squalicum Lake in Whatcom County, and the Jepson Manual of California calls it a noxious weed. Vallisneria americana, wild celery, is native to eastern USA and may not be native to western USA. However, helically coiled peduncles of female flowers attract attention. Aggressive native plants

Azolla mexicana, Mexican water-fern, is free floating, very aggressive, and tends to form a mat on top of a pond. Equisetum fluviatile, water horsetail, grows in shallow water near shores and often extensively dominates shorelines to the exclusion of other plants. Nuphar luteum ssp. polysepalum, yellow pond-lily, often dominates shorelines to a water depth of about 3 meters. In Tennant Lake, a shallow water body in Whatcom County, yellow pond-lily chokes much of the lake so much that boating there is very impractical. Typha latifolia, common cattail, is very aggressive in water less than 1 meter deep.

About wetland supplies

Wetland Supplies offers a vast assortment of native trees and shrubs as well as wetland mitigaion and pond plants.

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Press Release Submitted On: May 06, 2009 at 6:05 pm
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