A New Tool for Wildlife Gardeners
Native Plant Finder is an online resource for people who want to attract more wildlife to their gardens. The website is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, with support from the University of Delaware and the US Forest Service. It draws on the work of Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.
After entering your zip code, Native Plant Finder presents you with a list of plant genera native to your location. These are ranked according to how many moth and butterfly species each genus hosts. Click on the genus, and you get a list of species of that genus that are native to your area.
You also get a list of the moth and butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on the plants of that genus. For example, when I enter my zip code and click “Find Native Plants”, I get a list of genera starting with Goldenrod (Solidago), which is host to 57 species of moths and butterflies that live in my immediate region.
Click again, and you get a list of four native goldenrod species, along with the 57 moth and butterfly species attracted to this genus. The list includes the Painted Lady and a few other butterflies, but are mostly moths.
Don’t get all disappointed, though. Without moths we would have few songbirds. Tallamy’s research estimated that one pair of chickadees must find 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise a single brood of nestlings. More caterpillars means more songbirds.
The moths and butterflies are listed with the most specialized species first. For Goldenrods, the first species listed is the Arcigera Flower Moth, whose caterpillars feed on Goldenrods only.
There’s also a link that lets you search by moth or butterfly species for host plants.
This is a beta website which means, I think, that it is a work in progress. My only quarrel with Native Plant Finder is that it may be a little too geographically specific. For instance, Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) may not be native to my zip code but it is native to several parts of Illinois. It certainly thrives in my garden, and I would think it would attract the same Lepidopterans as the Goldenrod species listed for my zip code.
Quibbles aside, this is definitely a website worth visiting. Give them a visit by clicking here.