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Art gallery? Who needs it? Look up at the swirling silver-lined clouds in the magnificent blue sky or at the silently blazing stars at midnight. How could indoor art be any more masterfully created than God's museum of nature?

~Grey Livingston
Turn Your Yard Into a Wildlife Refuge PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Sunday, January 25 2009

In a public opinion poll undertaken during the last ten years, 88% of all Floridians said it is important that wild animals live around their homes. Yet millions of Florida residents do not realize how closely the health of wildlife population is tied to the health of their habitats - the living spaces that provide animals with food, water, shelter and cover.

There are many reasons why birds and other animals appeal to our affections - possibly the greatest single emotion is joy. The song of the Cardinal and the Mockingbird, the displays of visiting migrant birds on their way south or north, and the sight of butterflies dancing from flower to flower are personal immeasurable pleasures.

Unfortunately, many Floridians are becoming increasingly isolated from the natural world as local populations of wildlife are displaced for suburban and urban areas. Bulldozers and backhoes are eliminating the living spaces of many of our wild birds and animals in this fast growing state.
 However, by creating a wildlife refuge in our own backyard and attracting birds, butterflies, insects and reptiles to you own "space" can improve our chances of observing different species. The National Wildlife Federation has found that attractive landscaping installed with wildlife in mind will substantially increase the value of your house and lot. A $200 investment in native plants can yield a 3%-10% increase in real-estate value, plus enormous savings in water and energy costs.

Placing the right plant in the right place is paramount in attracting wildlife. Birds need good nesting sites, cover and food. A strategically placed birdhouse to attract a specific species could significantly increase local populations. To attract hummingbirds, plant their favorite nectaring blossoms in sunny areas; Coral Honeysuckle; Trumpet Creeper; Firebush or the White Geiger Tree. 
Butterflies need both nectar and larval food plants. Different species of butterfly are plant specific when laying their eggs, e.g. Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwings (The Florida State Butterfly) require the native passion vine; the Monarchs require Milkweed. Those "creepy crawlies" or Herptiles of which there are 127 species in Florida, also need their space in a wildlife yard. Lizards and frogs are vociferous consumers of those pesky bugs including mosquitoes.

Remember that a beautifully manicured yard with a large sterile lawn area and clipped shaped exotic shrubs and trees will not attract native wildlife. Consider eliminating some of the large expanses of energy consuming grass and replanting with native ground covers. You will be saving time, money, energy and almost totally negating the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Native trees and plants provide the ideal environment for wildlife and require little maintenance once they are established in the landscape.

Meanwhile, think about those songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies and even that sometimes-irritating nighttime croaking of those frogs and imagine how dull our lives would be without them!

Submitted by: Janice de Grineau, Florida Master Gardener
Reference material:Sarasota County Cooperative Extension Service
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