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Jul 18, 2022

New Chapter of the Native Plant Society Supports Backyard Birds and Wildlife

Ever wonder what New Jersey birds feed their babies? Listen closely at this time of year and you will hear the clamor of baby birds as their parents bring them soft, easy-to-digest insect larvae that are the staple of their diet. Each bird needs hundreds of larvae every day to feed a nest of babies. And these larvae can almost exclusively be found on native New Jersey plants.  

Most of the plants we buy at our local garden centers are not natives. In fact, they originated in such far-away places as Europe and Asia. New Jersey insects know the difference; their larvae are unable to consume foreign plants, which leaves birds searching in vain for larvae among the leaves. Beautiful plants that we know and love, like Korean dogwood, Persian lilac and Bradford Pear, do not support any of the insect species that are critical for a healthy bird population. Our yards may be beautiful and lush with pristine grass, colorful blooming annuals, and neatly blown and mulched beds, but in the eyes of our local birds, they are a food desert. 

The lack of food and natural habitat is having an impact. An important study recently published in the journal “Science” shows that bird populations are rapidly shrinking. There are 25 percent fewer birds alive today in the United States and Canada than there were in 1970. But the good news is that we have the power to feed the birds and improve access to supportive habitat, simply by planting native plants. 

A new Monmouth Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey aims to help people learn about the critical relationship between native plants, insects and birds. Its members work together to increase public awareness of the ecological importance of native plants and to promote the use of local native plants in home landscapes and public spaces. You’ll find members participating in garden tours and nature walks, learning through webinars and speaker events, making presentations and tabling at local events, and volunteering at native plant gardens. 

“The Native Plant Society of New Jersey is dedicated to the appreciation, protection, and study of the native flora of NJ,” said Kim Rowe, Monmouth Chapter Leader. “We want to spread the word about the critical role native plants play in our wildlife food webs. And we want to help Monmouth County residents learn to support wildlife in their own back yards by including native plants in their landscapes.”  

The new Monmouth Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey is hosting a series of events, tours and volunteer days, including a naturalist-led tour of the Huber Woods native plant gardens and the Scudder Preserve on Monday, July 25 from 5 to 7 pm. To get involved and sign up for the chapter’s mailing list, email monmouth@npsnj.org or visit npsnj.org.