Landscape for Wildlife: A New MGNV Facebook Series

by Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener
Photos by Elaine Mills

An Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) enjoying the fruit of a Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua).

In 2021, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia will introduce Landscape for Wildlife, a new series of educational posts on Facebook. The series, which will run weekly on Thursday mornings starting Jan. 7, will complement the ongoing Tuesday Mystery Plant series on native plants but will focus on the services those species can provide to endangered pollinators, birds, small mammals, and other wildlife whenhomeowners include them in residential landscapes.

Coastal Doghobble (Leucothoe axillaris)

This winter, we’ll begin looking at woody plants (trees, shrubs, and vines) that can offer cover for wildlife with their evergreen foliage. Later in the season, we’ll look at trees that provide year-round protection in hollows, cavities, and even under their bark. Grasses and ferns that fill that role on the ground level will be considered as the year progresses.

Spring posts will introduce native ephemerals and flowering trees that serve as important early sources of nectar and pollen for emerging ground-dwelling bees and other pollinators. Through the summer months, we will take a look at various perennials that act as pollinator magnets.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca )

Of course, nectar is not the only requirement for the lifecycle of various Lepidoptera. From late spring to fall, butterflies, skippers, and moths also rely on plants to serve as larval hosts, providing protected locations and foliage as food for their egg, caterpillar, and pupal stages. We will point out the top species identified by entomologist Doug Tallamy that provide this critical support.

As the year moves on, we will turn to some late-season nectar sources as well as to fruits, seeds, and nuts. Some of these foods will be available to birds and mammals through the winter into spring.

Look for the first post in the series on Thursday, Jan. 7 at 9:00 a.m. on the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia Facebook page.


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