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Jul 24

Seasonal thoughts for end of July

- Water. Leave saucers of water out at different levels for insects, birds, toads and other creatures, especially if your space and the surrounding landscape is largely hard-surfaced and lacking in water sources for wildlife. As for actually watering your plants, if they're native and in the ground (pots are another matter) they are adapted to local conditions and under normal circumstances will survive just fine without you. So don't waste your time and the Earth's resources. 

- Dead-head. Cut the spent flowers off and your plants will flower for a longer time. If you let them go to seed, they figure, job done and time to get into the next stage, which is storing energy to survive winter.

- Weed. In sharp contradistinction, weeds should not be allowed to go to seed as that's just making more work in the future. Get them before they have seeds on them. Pull and lay the weeds on their side to decompose, return nutrients to the soil, and turn into mulch.
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Jun 17

Moving into a  new subdivision? Here’s why it is so vital you plant native trees

Picture yourself as a bird. A chickadee. Proud parent of half a dozen nestlings. You have a territory - an area with a radius of about 50 metres that you defend from others of your species to get first dibs on resources. You have a job - to work with your mate to get food to your chicks. It’s a challenge.

Many may think of you as a seed and  berry eater. But for chickadee nestlings, seeds are of no interest. These youngsters need protein! And that comes from insects. Ninety-six per cent of terrestrial birds rear their young on insects. The best source of protein is  caterpillars - the larvae of moths, butterflies and sawflies.

Back and forth, back and forth. You and your mate work from dawn to dusk to satisfy the chicks’ voracious appetite. How much do they eat? Doug Tallamy, professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, parked himself by a chickadee nest and counted.

He found the pair delivered food every three minutes. Once, they delivered 30 caterpillars in 27 minutes. They foraged from 6 am to 8 pm. He figured they delivered 390-570 caterpillars a day. The chicks spent 16-18 days in the nest. Just getting the young to a point where they can leave the nest takes 6,240-9,120 caterpillars!

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Apr 22

Out of time - the Osage Orange

My Osage Orange seedlings are reaching upwards – only 15 cm tall, but with straight and slender stems and leaves that are a wonderfully green shade of green. I still bring them inside at night in case of a frost attack, and protect them from the brightest sun and harshest wind, but they are clearly unfazed by temperature swings that have dipped close to freezing recently.

Happy seedlings, I’d say, welcoming spring.

They give no sign of being stranded in our world long beyond their time, 10,000 years after their biological partners disappeared into extinction. The fruit of the Osage Orange is huge – 10 to 15 cm in diameter, several pounds in weight – designed for big mouths and big guts, belonging to the likes of mammoths, mastodons, gomphotheres, camels, giant sloths and shrub oxen.

Other trees engineered by nature in her complexity to appeal to such creatures include Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Avocado, and Pawpaw. The extinction of North America’s megafauna meant that these trees with supersized fruit no longer had natural dispersal agents. The fruit fell next to the parent tree and rotted. Their range shrank.

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