Connecting Grey Treefrogs and Pokeweed to Sustainable Landscaping
A new game I like to play is drilling down on how even the smallest observation in my rewilded yard can connect back to the importance of creating habitat for wildlife. I’m sharing below just a handful of the many connections to sustainable landscape practices I could make from seeing a sleepy grey treefrog sitting on a pokeweed leaf.
Grey treefrogs are the most common frogs in the Piedmont region where I live. (There’s two similar species and I’ll let the experts figure out which one this one is) Even though the grey treefrog population in the Southeast is secure right now, amphibian populations are in decline worldwide. They are sensitive to environmental factors such toxic chemicals and habitat destruction and are often the first sign of something not right in the environment In the last fifty or so years about two hundred frog species have disappeared with over on hundred more frog species projected to also become extinct in the next hundred years.
Treefrogs are nocturnal and threatened by increasing light pollution. In areas that are highly lit such as where there is all-night landscape lights, the males will stop calling their mates so the females stop reproducing. I worry about this in my yard because the folks behind my yard have installed lights in their trees that go on at dusk and off at dawn.
Treefrogs are insectivores and dependent on our declining insects as a food source.
Treefrogs spend most of their time in the treetops and are affected by habitat loss because of development. I wonder if at some point the dizzying tree canopy destruction. Atlanta has recently experienced will start to affect the ageless sound of treefrogs during hot summer nights.
Treefrogs come closer to the ground during breeding season to lay their eggs in fishless woodland ponds - including backyard water features. The use of pesticides can kill amphibians such as tree frogs within hours. Pesticides can also alter where they breed.
In the winter grey treefrogs need tree roots, leaves, or brush piles to hibernate.
The most obvious ways to offer habitat for tree frogs where we live are similar to ways of bringing nature home to protect most wildlife – keeping our yards as dark as possible at night and using motion sensitive lights if necessary, creating a chemical-free biodiverse yard with overstory native trees and insect-hosting native plants, and leaving the leaves and creating brush piles.
Pokeweed (Phylotacca americana), is a valuable perennial habitat plant that is treated as a weed in America where it is native but grown as an exotic ornamental in Europe, including the Kew Gardens in London.
Pokeweed is a host for the spectacular giant leopard moth.
Pokeweed is also a habitat plant at every stage *the leaves are often defoliated by a number of hungry insects *the flowers attracts a myriad of pollinators including hummingbirds *the berries are loved by wildlife including most backyard wild birds and squirrels *the tangle of dried hollow stalks and stems offer winter cover for wildlife and a safe place for overwintering insects.
In the lawncentric, mow and blow landscaping world pokeweed has a bad rap because it can grow four to fifteen feet high and will generously self-seed. It’s also tricky to dig out the long taproot once established. I've been successful just pulling up any new seedlings that pop up around my little yard each year. Pokeweed is such a great habitat plant that I have two plants growing in a partially sunny area near my biggest brush pile where little else is growing. If my rewilded yard was bigger, I’d have more pokeweed.
For fun, go in your yard and find a plant, insect or animal and research it a bit to find out how it connects to a healthy ecosystem. I promise it’s always an enlightening exercise in reinforcing the need to nurture the native nature where we live.
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