Joined: May 2002
I have a very small yard in an urban, high density neighborhood. We have been here 14 years, and I have been planting regionally local native plants since we moved bought the house. We have about 30 species of plants in the 30X20 ft yard, and 8 in a 30X5 ft front strip. The trees are 2 species of willow for upper story and insect fodder. Alan’s humming birds have nested (successful), as have crows (failed). The hummers like two species, gooseberry, and California Fuchsia, both with red hanging flowers The Gooseberry blooms from about now until June, and the fuchsia in late summer to winter. They also like the non-native bottle brush and rosemary next door. The willows also support a wood-boring beetle, many lepidoptera most obvious being the Morning cloak, but also a lot of cool moths. I have 2 species of buckwheat, and 2 evening primroses that also support a number of leps, the largest being a white lined sphinx moth. The buckwheat and a few of the various asterace feed metal marks, and marine blues. There are at least a dozen species of “lady beetles” that reproduce, and loads of other beetles (God loves beetles). And I can’t ID the spiders much, but there are about 5 orb-weaver speceis, and an assortment of others. I watched a wasp the other day provisioning her burrow with a violin spider. The wasps are another interesting population- I have watched the little killers drag around caterpillars, spiders, and whatnot.
The migrant English Sparrows devastate the Morning Cloak caterpillars, and when the survivors hit the ground to disperse, the wasps and spiders take over. From about 50 chrysalii I kept an eye on, only 2 emerged. The rest were all parasitized by wasps. (I did get to watch some of the little wasps emerge, 50-60 per chrysalis).
All these critters attract vertebrates. The bush tits, assorted warblers join the sparrows (including a few native species) eating insects off the trees, etc. We also are visited by downy woodpeckers occasionally. We also see orioles, tanagers, sparrow hawks, sharp shinned hawks, doves (eaten by the sharp shinned hawks). We get raccoon, skunk and opossum that wander through.
Resident breeders include golden salamanders, western fence lizards and southern alligator lizards. The alligator lizards eat the salamanders as well as crickets and so on. Two years ago the lizard numbers took a bump. It turned out that the they had been found by a young king snake. I have no idea where he came from, he was quite small unlikely to have been an escaped pet. I noticed him one morning when he was trying to swallow an alligator lizard almost as large as he was. I decided I preferred lizards, and so “Elvis the King” moved to a terrarium. He is about 3 ft now, and lives up to his name (at least re: eating).
I have not watered, fertilized, or used any other crap for 10 years. If everyone used native plants, we would not have nearly the environmental problems. In spite of this, the City Lawn Nazis aka “code enforcement officers” were on my ass for years for growing “weeds.” I shook them off when I received a “Registered Wildlife Habitat” sign from the National Wildlife Federation and posted it in the yard.
"Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy."
L. Susskind, 2004 "SMOLIN VS. SUSSKIND: THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE"