Ah, the sound of birds chirping. toads croaking and turkeys gobbling, music to my ears. Many of us take these sounds for granted. However, if you have ever spent time in the concrete jungles of cities, these sounds may not be as familiar to you. Florida’s diverse wildlife provide an array of recreational opportunities. From bird watching and photography to hunting and fishing. Unfortunately, as habitats become lost or fragmented because of human development, some wildlife populations have decreased. Additionally, the invasion of non-native plants and animals have also taken a toll on our wildlife. Who hasn’t seen pictures of pythons tangling with alligators to be at the top of the food chain? Brazilian pepper plants, melaleuca, mimosa and popcorn trees have taken over where native plants used to grow.
So what’s the big deal?
Our native wildlife evolve in conjunction with native plants. This is particularly true when it comes to pollinators and beneficial insects. For example, the native vine Carolina jessamine blooms earlier than most vines, which provides an early source of nectar for bees and other pollinators. Another example of important native plants is the mighty oak trees which provide over 50% of the most food (think acorns) for many of our Florida mammals.
If you want to attract more wildlife to your yard, think trees first. They provide food cover and a place to nest. Trees are also the “backbone” of your landscape and add value to your property. Next, think about incorporating shrubs. Select shrubs with flowers to provide nectar and dense growth habit for cover. Add ornamental grasses, like our native muhly grass or purple love grass, which provide seed for a variety of wildlife. The addition of flowering perennials add color to your yard. Orange or red flowers help attract hummingbirds while white, yellow, and blue flowers draw in native bees. Butterflies are attracted to a variety of colors.
We have several free publications focusing on wildlife and plants. Visit our office or go to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/, or attend the upcoming presentation on Attracting Wildlife at the Live Oak Library on Thursday, February 15th from 12pm-1pm.