What Does Our Ecosystem Provide for Us?


Captures the sun’s energy

Makes oxygen

Creates soil

Infiltrates water

Cleans water

Cleans air

Pollinates crops

Recycles garbage

Sequesters carbon

Provides food and shelter

Provides medications

We receive all this for free.

and we take it for granted.

There are 129,000,000 acres of housing in the US

4 million miles of road

and 62,500 sq. miles–some 40 million acres–of lawn

54% of our land is in cities and suburbs.

41% of our land is devoted to agriculture–crops and grazing.

5% is pristine.  (That is far more that Illinois has–we have 1/10th of 1% of our land in

original prairie and savanna.)

To make matters worse, our forests and woodlands, our savannas and prairies, our ponds and lakes are scattered islands, disconnected from each other, thereby reducing their carrying capacity dramatically. So  said Dr. Douglas Tallamy, Department of Entomology Chair, and Wildlife Behavioral Ecologist at the University of Delaware and author of the best-selling book, Bringing Nature Home, at the Citizens for Conservation Foundation of Barrington, IL. on  Saturday.

We needn’t despair, however; there is a solution, again said Dr. Tallamy.  We can plant native plants–trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses–in our own spaces.  If we all do it, we will connect the islands all across our land.  If everyone in our country replanted half their lawn with native plants, it would be more area than all the National Parks in the lower 48 states put together.

So, let us begin.

If you aren’t ready to do this:

or this:

then start small:

Add natives to your perennial gardens

Native Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) combined with non-native perennial ‘Blue Fortune’ Agastache.

Shade your house with native trees

Red Maple in bloom in April. The foliage will shade this church in summer.

Encourage your municipality to plant parkways with native trees and then underplant them with moisture-holding sedges and grasses.

My new Red Oak underplanted with Penn Sedge, Jacob’s Ladder, and Wild Geranium last April

Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed in bloom under the tree in July.

Get together with your neighbors and  plant your back lot line with native trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs for birds, butterflies, bees, and insects to travel through.

Planting a border across the back yard in front of existing Burning Bushes. The focal point is a Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica) underplanted with Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle along with myriad forbs and sedges.  The yellow fall foliage and flowers of  Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) in back will echo the yellow fall foliage of the tree.

American Hazelnut in autumn along the border of my back yard. The shrubs are underplanted with Penn Sedge, Jacob’s Ladder, Wild Geranium, and Big-leaved Aster.  A Black Walnut shades the area.

You can have a greenway along your front lot line.  This is Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera)

Animals, birds, butterflies and insects don’t need a path, but it’s nice for people to interact with the natural world.  What looks like grass next to the path is Long-beaked Sedge (Carex sprengellii).

Prairie Dropseed, New Jersey Tea, and Pale Purple Coneflower for a sunny greenway.

See how easy this is?  And how beautiful your gardens will be?

I urge you to get started this spring.

You can find some garden designs to emulate in my book, which you can purchase direct from my website:  www.naturalmidwestgarden.com.

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