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Natural Cleveland: July

Jill Collins  |  07/19/16 @ 9:00am  |  Posted in Natural Cleveland

This installment of Natural Cleveland takes a closer look at the flora and fauna of the typical backyard in the region. What animals you see are often a result of the type of "landscape" you create.

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The trees leafed out two months ago and the early flowers are done. Pollinators swarm the in-between flowers, the ones that are not early and also are not the late summer blooms.

Cleveland’s backyard gardens and community gardens are another type of green space that provide at least some habitat for wildlife. Gardens are manipulated landscapes, often with non-native species varying from ornamental and sentimental to edible. Although diversity may not dramatically increase due to gardens, they support smaller wildlife and attract a wide variety of native and non-native insects.

Reptiles and amphibians can be particularly sensitive to pollution and habitat restrictions and have limited range in urban areas. A few snakes survive in the city. I see the Northern brown snake (Storeria dekayi dekayi) most often in urban backyards. The American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) is also able to live beneath porches and in brush piles of city lots.

The tomato hornworm, (Manduca quinquemaculata, which becomes a five spotted hawk moth) and aphids are harmful for garden plants. Others like the praying mantids (Mantis sp.) and lady beetles are beneficial. Native lady beetles, like the pink lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata), have to compete with non-natives, particularly the multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

Pollinator gardens, areas planted specifically for butterflies and other pollinator species, often contain native plants. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) has gained popularity as people have become more aware of the decline of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Butterflies have an intimate connection with their host plant.

Imagine what we could do for a number of butterfly species if we were willing to grow their host plants. Please see Holden Arboretum’s host plant list for more information.

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Jill Collins
2 years ago

Common milkweed can spread and take over a yard. Many people do consider it a weed. It is beneficial though for monarchs. Milkweed is the main plant that monarch butterflies lay eggs on and that monarch caterpillars feed on. There may be alternatives to help monarchs, but I checked multiple sites and could only find milkweed listed. Some other types of native milkweed may be less aggressive than common milkweed, such as swamp milkweed. You would have to look into the planting recommendations to grow some of these other milkweeds in your yard. Swamp milkweed, for example, has specific habitat requirements. Thanks for commenting and feel free to respond to what I've written.

2 years ago

Is milkweed a weed? I heard that it spreads like crazy and that there are better alternatives to help the monarch.

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