Nature’s Best Hope : “A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard”, by Douglas W. Tallamy

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Nature’s Best Hope : “A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard”, by Douglas W. Tallamy

A collaborative book review by Tonya and Nancy

The EV Book Group choice for it’s August gathering was “Nature’s Best Hope : A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard”, by Douglas W. Tallamy. A few members met in person (well masked & fully vaccinated); a larger group gathered via Zoom. We were with the Zoomers, and took part in an enthusiastic, dynamic discussion.

Tallamy suggests that homeowners not rely on government policies to make the vital & urgent changes needed in our local environment. We can make a huge difference by turning yards into ‘conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats’. His appeal is really a call to action and an acknowledgement that planting natives is not an overly complicated thing to do (you can start small and add plants to your garden over time); it is good for the earth, and you can see tangible results by watching the wildlife that visit your garden.

Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, so many of his examples and research relate to the East Coast, but his enthusiasm for explaining the importance of insects resonated with us all. Our discussion rallied around many of his ideas; here are just a just a few:

● “Insects run the World; they pollinate 87.5% of all plants, and 90% of insect herbivores are diet specialists.

● Most vertebrates do not eat plants directly, but eat insects.

● Ecosystems run better as more species join (ie. more diversity).

● Most birds rear their young on insects rather than seeds or berries.

● Oaks are a keystone plant/tree.

● 70% of our native bees nest in the ground; our gardens need to include rocks & logs, for added pupation sites, & winter nesting material (ie. soft wood; plants with pithy stems).

How do we learn more about appropriate native plants for our gardens, with their specific environmental constraints (ie. water, shade, soil type…)? As you can imagine, the EVs have a lot to say about resources in our area. Here are a few we discussed; maybe you know of others to let us know about!

Resources for California Native Plants 

Plant Information 

1. Calscape –

a. Search for native plants that grow in a zip code. Search returns a list of plants organized by type (trees, shrubs, perennials, …)

b. Extensive information for each plant: photos, estimated range, general info, wildlife supported, landscaping info, nurseries that carry the plant, and more.

c. Garden planner –

2. California Native Plant Society

a. – Online tool for garden design, virtual garden tours, how to start a school native garden, and more.

b. California Native Plant Pollinators – Talk by Juanita Salisbury, with general info on planting with natives and details on CA plants that attract pollinators


-pollinator-gardens-13aug2019.pdf Slides Juanita Salisbury’s


c. Native Plants That Attract Native Bees – Talk by John Kehoe

d. CNPS Santa Clara Valley – Our local CNPS chapter.

e. – Several talks on CNPS’s YouTube channel

3. Calflora –

a. Search for native plants that grow at an address. Search returns list of plants organized by type.

4. Las Pilitas Nursery – – Practical information about native plants, covering many topics. For example (these are just a few, navigate around the site for many more):

a. – List of native plants in the San Jose area

b. – Butterfly plants in California

c. – Online native garden design tool. d. Blog ––30–ten-easy-native-plants-for-the-bay-ar ea – Ten easy natives for the Bay Area.

5. Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency – List of California native plants.

6. Valley Water – – Rebates for converting high-water use landscape to low-water use. 7. Xerxes Society – – Resources for pollinators and California native plants.

8. National Wildlife Federation Search for native plants in a zip code.

9. Pollen Specialist Bees of the Western United States, by Jarrod Fowler – – List of specialist bees and the plant they feed on.

10.Best Bee Plants for California, UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab – – List of bees (including honey bees) and plants they feed on. Plants are organized in two lists, one for spring and one for summer, depending on when they bloom. The “Origin” column indicates whether or not the plant is CA native. Useful gardening notes for several plants – e.g. “Great groundcover”, “Long flowering”.


1. Annie’s Annuals and Perennials – – To find the natives they carry, select “California Natives” in the “Category” dropdown. You can restrict the search even more by specifying “Type”, “Color”, etc. You have to press “FIND” to get the results of the search.

2. California Native Plant Society – Santa Clara Chapter, at Hidden Villa – httts://california-native-plant-society-santa-clara-valley-chapter/ 3. Grassroot Ecology, at Foothills Park –

4. Las Pilitas –

5. Yerba Buena Nursery –

6. Calscape’s list of nurseries that have native plants – with map:

7. SummerWinds Nursery – – Usually has a small natives section.

8. Yamgaci’s Garden Center – – Has a small natives section.


1. Gardening for Wildlife with Native Plants – Bay Nature – 2. San Francisco Bay Area Native Plants for the Garden by Grassroot Ecology –

3. List of books, by CNPS – 4. Caterpillars for Western North America (folding guide) Where to see CA native plants 

1. Primrose Way Pollinator Gardens as-minutes/parks-and-recreation-commission/agendas-minutes/2020-agenda-an d-minutes/pollinator-garden-presentation.pdf Five native gardens along Palo Alto Streets.

2. Grassroot Ecology, List of demonstration gardens –

3. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (California Native Plants area) –

4. Growing Natives Garden Tour – 5. Calflora – – List of places in California to see native plants

Volunteer Opportunities related to CA native plants 1. California Native Plant Society – 2. Grassroot Ecology – 3. SFBBO tidal marsh habitat restoration