Is gardening a crusade or a hobby? This question occurred to me after reading a New York Times article about a symposium featuring Douglas Tallamy, Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. Tallamy is also the author of “Bringing Nature Home”, in which he argues for the environmental importance of using native plants in home landscapes.

Yellow Coneflower and Wild Bergamot Yellow Coneflower and Wild Bergamot

In his presentation, Tallamy maintains that gardens should not be judged on beauty alone: Gardens should, among other things, help sustain the diversity of life.

Tallamy’s argument is all about insects. His research shows that native plants support way more insects than exotics. To give just one example, native oaks support 537 species of caterpillar, as opposed to a Japanese elm (Zelkova serrata), which supports none. This is because most insects are specialists able to digest the foliage of only a very limited…

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