Dr. Doug Tallamy: American entomologist and visionary native plant promoter. Our hero. His call to action singlehandedly knocked our gardening socks off and inspired us to get out there and plant natives in our own gardens.

In his lecture to a Green Spring Gardens audience in Alexandria, VA in 2012, Tallamy humorously and enthusiastically made the case for planting native species in our yards, no matter how large or small. In his 2007 book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native PlantsTallamy describes the consequences of “uncontrolled expansion”: the loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat across America, and how ceaseless land development drives biodiversity loss.

He explains the equally damaging role of the 50,000 non-native plants from all around the globe that now burden our landscape and our environment. Because most of our native insects cannot eat these ubiquitous ornamental invaders, and so many animals rely directly or indirectly on insect protein for food, these alien plants cannot sustain any life but their own.

It’s time for suburban homeowners and gardeners to rise up and transform their impoverished land by planting for the mammals, birds, bees, butterflies and all the other critters we may not find as appealing but which play equally essential roles in continuing human survival.

Tallamy eloquently argues, “Unless we modify the places we live, work, and play to meet not only our own needs but the needs of other species as well, nearly all species of wildlife native to the United States will disappear forever. This is not speculation. It is a prediction backed by decades of research on species-area relationships by ecologists who know of what they speak. And the extinction of our plants and animals is not a scenario lost in the distant future. It is playing out across the country and the planet as I write.

Our preserves and national parks are not adequate to prevent the predicted loss of species, and we have run out of the space required to make them big enough. For conservationists, and indeed for anyone who celebrates life on earth, this is perhaps the direst possible consequence of the human enterprise.”

Doug Tallamy is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark. His primary research goal is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. 

Worth Reading: Dr. Tallamy was recently quoted in a New York Times article about the disappearing Monarch butterfly.