Seattle Life in the Yard

Sustain biodiversity: garden with native plants.

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Never Ending Quest

I got to go to two classes last week. I attended a little four hour training class put on by Sasha Shaw and other King County Noxious Weed Control Program Folks. The class was in Kenmore and supplied the experts in the field with four hours of CEU Credits, but I attended for my never ending quest for knowledge. The website for the hard working and ever helpful Sasha Shaw troops is . You can look up some invasive alien plants there and get information on the best ways to get rid of them. The website also has a very good Native Plant section and it is well worth poking around and finding ways that it could be useful to you.

Scot’s Broom is making itself visible right now and it is a great time to lop it off close to the ground before it sets seed. This is a monoculture plant that crowds out all natives, and other plants, because it binds nitrogen to its roots and then the nitrogen is not available to other plants. It has no wildlife value because, like almost all alien plants, does not have insects, native insect herbivores, that eat it. So it does not contribute to the transfer of energy from the sun, to plant, to insect biomass, to baby birds and other critters; it is not part of our local ecosystem trophic energy transfer. You can web search trophic levels and get some great places to learn about trophic levels and ecological food web stuff.

The lack of tropic function in an ecosystem is why alien plants reduce wildlife, cause habitat destruction and eventual species extinctions. The wonderful book “Bringing Nature Home” by Professor Douglas Tallamy does an excellent job of explaining the process in a very readable style. You can web search his name or book to find him, plus his book is available at Seattle Public Library. If you have ever walked through a neighborhood that has lots of bird sounds and then noticed another neighborhood that has few bird sounds, that is very likely due to an absence of native insects due to an absence of native plants. I especially notice lots of birds in areas that have big native trees and that is because the big native trees support a huge amount of native insect biomass which is good food for healthy strong baby birds.

Sasha’s class was also useful to me because I attended an eight hour Forest Steward Class to help me get started in the Green Seattle Partnership Seattle Forest Steward Program. Yeah! The instructors packed lots of information into the day and I now have to really learn it all and use it for practical application to improve and maintain a little chunk of Seattle’s lovely green. Part of the training was a brief field trip to Seward Park where I saw a small Brown Creeper searching for insects on several Western Red-cedars; very fun to watch it walk up the trees trunks. Then the crowning delight of the day, was a Bald Eagle sitting in a nest with just its head visible above a jumble of twigs. Wow.