EcoBlog

The latest thinking on ecological landscapes. Useful tips to improve our environment

ecobeneficial-trademark-shadow-new2
Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

Buy a copy of
The Pollinator Victory Garden!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
caterpillar

What Your Native Plants Are Doing When You’re Not Looking: In the Garden with Doug Tallamy

It is estimated that more than 90% of the insects in our home landscapes are benign or beneficial.   Why then do so many folks spray pesticides that kill not only insect “pests” but all the beneficial insects, too?  Instead of reaching for the spray, let’s use native plants to support beneficial insects and the natural predators that keep pests under control.

During a recent visit with Dr. Doug Tallamy at his home, Doug showed me many examples in his own yard of native plants that support the “good bugs,” helping to keep nature in balance. Doug pointed out a Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum) which he had not planted – it had popped up in his yard on its own, the seed likely transported by a bird after it enjoyed eating one of the blue berries.

Arrowwood Viburnum is one of several host plants for the intriguing caterpillar of the Saddleback Caterpillar Moth.  These caterpillars have adapted to eat the leaves of Viburnums and several other native plants.  While this caterpillar is not considered to be a significant pest, it is kept in check by natural predators, such as the larvae of braconid wasps.

Just tucked under a leaf of Doug’s Viburnum was one such Saddleback caterpillar, looking very other-wordly with prickly spikes and spines protruding from its colorful body (yes, they do sting).  Also protruding from the caterpillar were small, fluffy white tufts – the larvae of a Braconid Wasp, which make a meal of the Saddleback caterpillar and eventually kill it.  An ecological food web in action!  Check out my video with Doug Tallamy to see this fascinating interaction.

By planting appropriate, regional native plants you can help keep nature in balance in your own yard and support this kind of healthy local ecosystem.

Thinking about planting Viburnum dentatum?  Here is some additional information:

– Botanical name:  Viburnum dentatum.
– Common name:  Arrowwood Viburnum.
– Native to:  Eastern U.S. (Maine to Illinois, south to Texas and Florida).
– Zones:  4 to 9.
– Plant in full sun to light shade for best flowers and fruit.
– Prefers moist to average garden soil.  Will tolerate somewhat dry soil.
– Size at Maturity:  6 to 12 feet high by 4 to 10 feet wide.
– Several cultivars are available at nurseries.
– Self-fruitful.
– Creamy white flowers in late Spring.
– Deep blue berries in late summer to early fall.
Viburnum dentatum is a target for an exotic pest, the Viburnum Leaf Beetle.

Happy ecological planting from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

Photo: Caterpillar of the Saddleback Caterpillar Moth parasitized by Braconid Wasp larvae
Photo credit: Rick Schmidt

 

More from EcoBlog

Spotlight on a Great Native Nursery: Amanda’s Garden

When you are looking to buy native plants, it can still feel like the search for the Holy Grail. Take the time and effort to seek out local native nurseries that grow the regional native plants you want and that healthy ecosystems need. Skip the big box stores, and support…

Read More

Selling the Sizzle, Not Just the Steak: Promoting Native Landscapes

While meeting with a client who knows nothing about native plants and their benefits, I find myself recommending some great native plants for their landscape. As I rattle off names of possible plants, I notice the puzzled look I get from the client. Did I comb my hair this morning?…

Read More

Ecological Gardening Tips for Spring

As spring begins in earnest, pause for a moment before rushing off to the nursery or garden center to shop for plants. First, consider how the steps you take and the choices you make can increase the health of your landscape and the environment around you. Here are some tips…

Read More