• Calli Goldstein

Backyard Microsystems

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

What is your yard looking forward to this holiday season? The opportunity to give back to its own community. As you may know, Los Angeles is part of California’s Floristic Province, a biodiversity hotspot recognized globally for its thousands of endemic species which make California so special.

For the avid gardener, if a yard is a canvas, plants are the medium used to create beauty, a place of gathering, sanctuary. Especially in recent months, we may have found a new respect and appreciation for the garden as a space to safely spend time with our loved ones. Perhaps while enjoying a meal with others outdoors, we’ve noticed a monarch butterfly enjoying our garden too.

How often while we are working in our yards, do we stop to marvel at the birds that flutter beneath the canopies? How often do we seek to identify their species, in order to get a little more familiar with our avian neighbors that share the sky with us? Now more than ever, our gardens are becoming a place of gathering and sanctuary for more than just our friends and family. As gardeners, we can foster habitats for our animal kingdom brothers and sisters, creating micro-ecosystems in our backyards for them to sustain themselves along with us.

The crisis of habitat loss is nothing new— we are ultimately amidst the sixth extinction. Since 1970 we’ve lost 50% of our organisms. Globally, we’ve lost 90% of our bees. Albert Einstein predicted that without bees to pollinate our crops, should they go extinct, the human race would starve to death within five years. While we rely on the organisms of our Earth Community to support us, it is now our responsibility to support them or we are all at risk.

A simple way gardeners can support the Earth Community is by using plants endemic to California as the medium to bring life to your yard. Landscaping with nectar producing flowers that bloom in different seasons is one way of stabilizing native bee populations in urban areas like Los Angeles.

Did you know that Queen Bees set out after winter hibernation as early as February to build their hives? If there aren’t sources for nectar when she wakes up, the story ends sadly: the Queen will not be able to build a hive or feed her bees. Over time, populations diminish, and native bee species become vulnerable to extinction.

The California Native Plant Society recommends increasing the number of flowering plants that are available as early as February and that last all the way into fall. This way your garden will support Queen Bees at a critical point in their species’ life cycle. Pictured at left is an Asclepias Fascicularis. Early blooming pollinators like Manzanita (which flower in February) are also a great choice for strengthening native bee populations. The fruit which follows in spring and summer then becomes a food source for birds.

The California National Plant Society's helpful tool called Calscape can tell you when plant varieties native to your region bloom. You can get specific by searching which plants thrive in a given zip code or address.

Native plant nursery Theodore Payne Foundation is a great place to start sourcing your local plant varieties. This year they are running their annual plant sale for three weeks! You can sign up for a shopping slot here!

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