Bring More Hummingbirds, Orioles, and Warblers to Your Home

How can you get more birds visiting your garden?

Hummingbird gathering nectar from Cleveland Sage. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Go to Audubon’s guide for plants that attract birds.

Orange-Crowned Warbler foraging on Showy Penstemon. Photo by Kris Ethington.

When you click on this link, you will be directed to the Audubon Society database that recommends plants that help birds thrive where you live. Enter your 5-digit zip code and explore the best plants for birds in your area, as well as local resources and links to more information.

Hooded Oriole feeding chick. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Click the Audubon link and learn which native plants will bring more birds to your garden this spring.

Hummingbird fledgling perched on a Cleveland Sage with parent in the background. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you live in Southern California, you can find bird-friendly native plants for sale at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano.

Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano.

And on Saturday, March 12 from 3 to 5 p.m., you can pick up a free California buckwheat plant at the Arbor Day celebration at Lang Park in Laguna Beach while supplies last.

Where Do Western Monarchs Spend the Spring?

Despite the fact that Western Monarch butterflies are universally loved, their numbers have plummeted in recent years.

Two monarch butterflies cruise together under a Coast Live Oak tree.

What can you do to help? Join the Western Monarch Mystery Challenge–a campaign created to increase awareness of locations where Western Monarchs spend the spring in California after leaving their coastal California overwintering sites.

Male and female Western Monarchs together. Photo by Jeff Wallace.

If you see a monarch from February 18 through April 22, take a photo (it can be far away and blurry). Then report the siting to iNaturalist, the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper, or email it to MonarchMystery@wsu.edu.

Far away and blurry photo of Western Monarch on baccharis pilularis cultivar and coffee berry.

Your photo will help scientists better understand Western Monarchs’ locations and activities in February, March, and April. When you share your springtime Monarch observations, you help conservation efforts for the butterfly.

In between reporting your spring Western Monarch sitings, plant more native plants in your garden, especially California buckwheat, salvias, manzanitas, narrow-leaf milkweed, and maybe a scrub oak tree!

Saying Good Bye to a Billion Birds

Did you know that in 2016, North America had more than a billion fewer breeding birds than 40 years ago?

Blue birds eating insects. Photo by the Louis Gintner Botanical Garden.

What is contributing to the decline in bird populations? Scientist Doug Tallamy has discovered that when non-native ornamental plants are installed in the landscape, insect populations plummet because insects are co-evolved to feed from native plant species, not from introduced plant species.

Insects make up 96 percent of terrestrial birds’ food source.

Carolina chickadee prepares to feed young. Photo by Douglas Tallamy.

 

Thousands of lady beetles hibernating in a canyon area in a southern California woodland in the winter of 2020. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

We have 3,300 species of ornamental plants (from other areas of the world) introduced in the United States. These plants are cultivated and promoted by nurseries and home improvement centers because they are unusual, pretty, and easy to grow.

Ornamental Pampas Grass (from Argentina and Brazil) invades a creek in Southern California.

Introduced ornamental plants do not support abundant insect life, and without insects–humans, birds, and animals cannot survive. Other factors contributing to the reduction in bird populations include pesticide use, bird strikes on windows and plexiglass fencing, and feral cats. To learn more, you can read Tallamy’s research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

Ornamental fountain grass (from Africa) planted in a residential landscape in Southern California.

What can you do to help? Start by learning about native plants from your region. If you live in California, you can go to CalScape.org and type in your zip code. You will find a list of plants that are native to your area, and the insects and pollinators the native plant supports.

California Native Plant Society

Returning birdsong to the outdoors is one of the reasons why the Orange County California Native Plant Society is giving away one free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat to Orange County homeowners. Buckwheat supports 15 species of butterflies and moths, not to mention all of the native bees and other insects that thrive with this plant in the landscape. Plant a California buckwheat today and help birds find enough to eat.

Lady Beetle Visits Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Growing Buckwheat in the Garden

When cooler winter temperatures arrive in Southern California, residents wear sweaters and scarves to stay cozy. Buckwheat changes in the winter too, as the creamy white flowers turn a reddish brown when the flowers go to seed.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat graces a garden in winter.

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat has a compact nature suitable for the home garden and is fairly easy to grow for first-time native gardeners.

Buckwheat mixes with other natives in the garden.

More than a thousand buckwheats were distributed last fall, and if all went well, the plants that were given away may have doubled in size by now. Thanks to abundant rains over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the new buckwheat plants should be off to a good start.

New ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat planted in late November has doubled in size.

How is your new buckwheat growing? Have you experienced troubles or success? Let me know with a comment on this blog, and share a photo if you have one. I would love to hear from you.

And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up a free buckwheat, you can pick one up at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar on January 14, 15, and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (while supplies last).

Roger’s Gardens

More Buckwheat, More Butterflies

When you plant California buckwheat in your home landscape, you bring immediate relief to butterflies and other pollinators searching for nectar and shelter.

California native bee, solitary and docile, visits a California Buckwheat. Do you see the bee? Photo by Kris Ethington.

California buckwheats flower for months, enrich the soil with their tiny leaves, are easy to grow, and are evergreen. Buckwheat is a foundation plant for any garden.

Buckwheat graces a suburban garden.

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter is partnering with the Shipley Nature Center to give away 200 California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants at the Holiday Crafts Faire on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

Visit Shipley Nature Center this Saturday to pick up a free California buckwheat, select from 70 California native plants to purchase, and see 18 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands, and pristine coastal sage scrub habitat. Shipley’s address is 17851 Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach. See you this Saturday!

Bernardino Blue butterfly on California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum). Photo by Chuck Wright.

Buckwheat Builds Soil

California buckwheat is an evergreen plant with small leaves that occasionally drop to the ground, forming a natural mulch. The fallen leaves enrich the soil around the plant and allow the plant to grow and spread in its own loamy mulch.

California buckwheat leaves and stem. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

If you are an Orange County homeowner who hasn’t picked up your free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat yet, stop by Roger’s Gardens at 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar on Tuesday, October 22 through Thursday, October 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the only three-day giveaway we have planned, so take advantage of it if you can.

Rogers Gardens is participating in the A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign.

 

Birds, Bees and Buckwheat

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter created A Buckwheat in Every Garden to encourage homeowners to plant California native plants in their home landscape– which in turn supports and increases bird populations.

Hummingbird and native California fuchsia. Photo by Kris Ethington.

My neighbor recently sent this photo of a swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves of her kumquat tree. She had previously considered removing the kumquat trees from her garden, but decided against it and was thrilled to see the swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves.

Swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on the leaves of a kumquat tree. Photo by Amanda Morrell.

California buckwheat has a long, prolific flowering season that attracts tiny native California bees and butterflies. When I looked closely at my California buckwheat plants this summer, I was astonished to see thousands of tiny pollinators on my buckwheat flowers. These pollinators support my vegetable garden and fruit trees, and they support bird life as well.

Butterfly visits a California buckwheat. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

On Thursday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m., Mike Evans, owner of Tree of Life Nursery, gave a presentation at the OCCNPS chapter meeting called Horticultural Valor in the Native Garden–Be Bold! OCCNPS gave away 61 four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants during the chapter meeting.

Paper wasps visits a buckwheat flower. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

On Saturday, October 19, OCCNPS board member Thea Gavin gave a presentation at Orange Home Grown Farmers Market about how beneficial pollinators increase in numbers when native plants are installed near fruit and vegetable gardens. OCCNPS gave away 42 ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat plants at the event.

California buckwheat

Butterfly visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Would you like to help the buckwheat campaign? Join us as a Buckwheat Ambassador and help distribute baby buckwheat plants to your garden club or environmental group. Click here to learn how you can be a part of A Buckwheat in Every Garden.

Buckwheat Brings a Party

One hundred and fifty ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheats found new homes in Orange County. The first outreach event at Acorn Day at O’Neill Regional Park and the second outreach at Smartscape were very popular, attracting many gardeners eager to install a native California buckwheat in their home landscapes.

California buckwheats are in high demand at Acorn Day in O’Neill Park. Photo by Laura Camp.

The Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) has created an interactive iNaturalist map that shows the distribution of the 1,500 buckwheat plants as they are given away and planted throughout the OC. You can follow along as the new buckwheat plants are being installed in Orange County by clicking on the link here.

Four-inch California buckwheats ready for distribution. Photo by Ian Morrell.

If you didn’t have a chance to pick up your free California buckwheat plant last weekend, OCCNPS will be hosting more events throughout October and November.

One of many clusters of blossoms on California Buckwheat. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff

Go to www.OCCNPS.org for more information about upcoming buckwheat distribution events, buckwheat care, planting information, and more. We look forward to seeing you soon.

California buckwheat

California buckwheat in full bloom.

 

 

Buckwheat in Bloom

According to the California Native Plant Society’s Calscape.org, there are 251 varieties of buckwheat (Eriogonum) native to California! You can go to Calscape.org and see for yourself all of the beautiful buckwheat varieties that grow in the state.

Buckwheat “Dana Point.’ Photo by Kris Ethington.

Three different varieties of buckwheat are growing in my home garden currently, and I am looking forward to adding the ‘Dana Point’ selection being offered to homeowners through A Buckwheat in Every Garden this October.

After I pick up my free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat in October, I will install it in my garden near the sidewalk leading to the front door.

Dana Point buckwheat provides seeds for the birds, habitat for lizards, and nectar for many varieties of tiny California native bees and butterflies.

Buckwheats are hardy and easy to establish. Plant them in a sunny place in the garden without amendments or fertilizers and they will thrive. California buckwheats rarely need pruning–once a year in December at most. After the plant is established, rainfall is all of the water a buckwheat will need, but watering the plant once a month will keep it green longer.

Ashyleaf Buckwheat newly installed in landscape.

At right is a photo of Ashyleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum cinereum) that I planted in my garden three weeks ago. This wild buckwheat grows on beaches and bluffs in California. Ashyleaf buckwheat is the food plant for the Euphilotes bernardino, the Bernardino dotted blue butterfly.

Acmon Blue butterfly visits a California buckwheat.

The next post will talk about the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society’s buckwheat giveaway in more detail, providing specific dates and places where you can get your free, four-inch ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat plant in October and November while supplies last.

Butterfly Weekend

This weekend was California Biodiversity Day 2019 sponsored by the California Natural Resources Agency.  Scientists sought observations by fellow scientists, gardeners and ordinary citizens in mapping plants and animals living in California.

Male and female monarchs get together on the leaves of an alder tree to perpetuate the species. Photo by Jeff Wallace.

In honor of Biodiversity Day, I took a break from my chores and spent some time outside in my backyard with my husband to observe the local wildlife. We saw eight different species of butterflies, cactus wrens eating California coffee berries, hummingbirds sipping nectar from California fuchsia, a lizard doing push-ups on our garden wall, and a leaf-cutter bee laying eggs.

A pair of woodland skippers resting on a ceanothus.

After taking these photos, we uploaded them to iNaturalist, a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.

Metalmark butterfly at rest.

It’s fun discovering tiny butterflies and native bees that live in the garden.  I spend a lot of time watching the butterflies, wishing they would rest so I can capture their image with my iPhone.

My friend in Costa Mesa noticed Monarch caterpillars had eaten all of the leaves of her two narrow-leaf milkweed bushes this week.  She was alarmed and worried the caterpillars would need more food.  She drove to Armstrong Nursery on Thursday and purchased a large narrow-leaf milkweed and her Monarch caterpillars are happily munching away once again.  They are hungry!

Monarch caterpillar feasting on a narrow-leaf milkweed. Photo by Cynthia Grilli.

Scientists were concerned because the annual Western Monarch butterfly count was historically low this year (fewer than 30,000 butterflies were counted–down 99 percent from the 1980’s).  They fear the Western Monarch may be nearing extinction.

It feels hopeful to see these chubby caterpillars, and the two adults mating in my garden this week.  If you would like to learn more about how you can help Monarchs, go to The Xerces Society.

 

 

Local Plants Support Bird Life

Did you know that 96 percent of songbirds rear their young on insects?  That one nest of chickadees requires 4,000 caterpillars and insects to fledge their young?

carolina-chickadee_douglas-tallamy-1

Carolina chickadee prepares to feed young. Photo by Douglas Tallamy.

Our national parks and nature preserves are not adequate to support bird and butterfly populations according to Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.  Tallamy estimates that only 3 percent of land in the lower 48 is set aside as parkland and nature preserves. The remaining 97 percent of land is being used for agriculture, residential and commercial development.

Tallamy argues that part of the reason bird and butterfly populations have been declining is because we have been planting ornamental plants in our commercial and residential landscapes instead of native plants.

Fountain Grass

Ornamental and invasive fountain grass planted on a residential hillside.

Tallamy’s simple solution to reverse the decline of bird populations, is to encourage homeowners and business owners to plant locally native vegetation instead of ornamental plants.  Even planting a small corner of your garden with locally native plants will help support bird life and butterflies.

Buckwheat and Purple Three Awn

St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) and Purple Three Awn decorate a patio.

Locally native plants support butterfly life because the butterflies evolved to feed from the native vegetation.  More butterflies mean more birds.

Try planting native.  You will love the results.

More Butterflies in Your Garden

Southern California is home to people and plants from around the world.  Plants from far away lands have been introduced in California and have become so common that many people believe that most ornamental plants are native.

Examples of introduced species include Eucalyptus trees from Australia, ice plant from Africa, and bougainvillea from Brazil. These plants (and many others) are seen commonly in home and commercial landscapes in Southern California.

Ice Plant

Invasive ice plant surrounds a native Coast Live Oak, robbing it of rainfall.

What is a California native plant and why should we care?

Scientists tell us that plants that are native to our community provide a richer abundance of life than plants introduced from other countries. Local pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies rely on specific local plants to survive.

Narrow Leaf Milkweed

Western Monarch caterpillars feeding on native narrow-leaf milkweed. Photo by Cynthia Grilli.

Pictured above is a narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) loaded with Western Monarch caterpillars. The narrow-leaf milkweed grows in the wild lands of Southern California.

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) wants to help Californians plant more native plants in their yards and gardens. Even a small corner of your lawn devoted to native plants will help bird and butterfly populations recover and become more abundant.

Bees Bliss Sage and Vanessa butterfly

Vanessa butterfly nectars on a Bees Bliss sage.

Beginning October 5 of this year, OCCNPS will give away one free California Buckwheat plant (while supplies last) to residents living in Orange County. The California buckwheat that OCCNPS is giving away grows wild in Dana Point, California.  The Dana Point buckwheat blooms 10 months of the year with creamy white blossoms that turn a russet red in the late fall.

“If you’ve only space for one native habitat plant, let it be a buckwheat,” said Dr. Constance M. Vadheim of Mother Nature’s Backyard where she included tips on how to grow buckwheat in a home garden, as well as a list of traditional native uses of the plant.

California buckwheat

Field of buckwheat in the wild. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

Natural open space and parks are not enough to support bird and wildlife populations. Each of us can make a difference by installing California native plants in our yards. OCCNPS will begin distribution of free California buckwheat plants at Acorn Day in O’Neill Park on October 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We will map the plants as they head to their new homes. More information to come!

Buckwheat lines roadside

Buckwheat lines the road like summer snowdrifts. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff