Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Choosing Natives for Resilient and Bio-diverse Eco-system

I occasionally volunteer for Headwaters, where I would meet a few people who are also passionate about nature and building community.  I would learn some interesting facts about nature while I get myself immersed in the beauty of nature.  Working with nature can be relaxing, fu
n, and educational.  You can see interesting plants blooming in the middle of the forest, you can meet fellow nature enthusiasts, you can work hard under he sun and you can have your daily exercise getting your hands dirty with soil while walking, standing, and reaching out for something can be your exercise of the day.   
The last time I volunteered for Headwaters, I learned about the Natural Plant Society of Texas.  They give regular and scheduled talks to the public so that the public and members can be aware of the essence of having a locally sound yard and habitat for local species among other things.   One of the recent flowers that I learned from my recent encounter is the "fall obedience."  One of the friendly folks explained and showed to me why it was called “obedience.”  When you push or touch this flower to face a certain direction, this flower will stay where you push it towards.  It is normal that when you touch a flower, it will bounce back at you.  Not this flower.  I also learned that Bermuda grass is a kind of invasive plant.  It does not belong to San Antonio Region, and therefore, it is considered non-native and harmful to the local plants.  We plucked all the Bermuda grasses, weeds, and other invasive plants in all designated areas until we could no longer find any.

After learning a few things about the local plants from my nature-friendly friends, I became conscious of my surroundings, especially those that my new naturalist friend told me.  When I look at the Bermuda grass in the lawn of some of the houses in the neighborhood, it seems natural, green grass on the ground.   It looks beautiful and serene.  However, think twice before you appreciate that lawn with foreign grass.  Having a Bermuda grass and very green lawn in San Antonio, Texas would not be an ideal garden feature you would see or even adapt.  Maintaining Bermuda grass in Southern Texas is not recommended by horticulturist and Natural Plant Society.  It can take up a lot of water for the kind of weather and the drought situation in this region.  I learned from the Natural Plant Society that if you are to keep grass in your lawn in Texas, it is better to choose buffalo grass, horse herb as a turf, which belongs to a family of low-water-use landscape.

Why remove the non-native? Non-natives are normally high maintenance.  It is mostly the local plants that are considered known food for consumption of the local animals and insects.  As a source for food consumption, their numbers would generally dwindle down while the non-native plants occupy and compete with the space and resources that are meant to be for the local plants.  The diseases that the local plants are prone to will also cause these natives to decrease more in number while the invasive non-native plants, being immune to local plant diseases, continue to grow.  Eventually, the native plants have been suffocated by the non-native and invasive plants.  With the presence of only non-natives in the habitat, the animals and insects would no longer find food familiar to them.  One example is that if the bees cannot find flower that they are familiar with, they will go to another habitat, or another place that is suitable for them, having food and a safe habitat. With the drought-stricken city or even state, the residents are to be aware of the benefits of planting natives.  These plants are normally acclimated to the weather and can be low maintenance in terms of water and heat resistant to sun exposure.

Even more conscious of the climate if we use our resources to have vegetables and fruit-bearing plants that are local to us.  Thus, if you are spending a lot of money on your yard, you can harvest something right out of your garden over a few months.  That will be your food security apart from having gardening as a hobby.  When you have a edible garden in your yard, you know the kind of food that you are putting into your body. Hopefully, you will not use chemicals so you can have an organic and satisfying meal.  If you have some leftovers, you can enjoy being charitable by donating your extras to the local food pantries or distribution centers.

Another native plant that is perfectly suited to San Antonio weather is the Texas sage, and oleander.  These do not require much water and are considered a sub-tropical shrub.  These plants work best in USDA zones 8-10.  They can be in full bloom amidst the triple digits weather most of the time.  

When we choose native plants, we conserve our precious water so that it can be used for some other purposes that are critical during the summer season.  The local wildlife and birds will also thank you for choosing native plants.  This type of plant can also save you time in pampering and checking whether they need fertilizer or some trimming and other maintenance that you would do for a non-native species.  Since these plants are known locally, the ecosystem can thrive and flourish according to how nature designed them to be.  Given their natural habitat, the plants can adapt to the make-up of the soil, the weather, and other resources that make the plant grow.  The animals and insects can also find their local sources of food, without going further.  With local consumers, and local producers in the natural habitat, we cooperate with the nature to have healthy and bio-diverse eco-system.

Check out this interesting and cool music by Hila the Earth who invites all to get the native plants on the map:   Hila the Earth - Native Plants (Let's Get Them on the MAP!) (vimeo.com)

Learn more about native plants by checking the npsot.org website: Why Native Plants? - Native Plant Society of Texas (npsot.org)

 Check out out events and survey to serve you better: Justicia, Paz y Tierra / Justice, Peace and Earth: Common Home (saccvi.blogspot.com)

 Happy Season of Creation!  Let's make nature thrive.   

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