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Wild Ones

Marsha Gebhardt for Wild Ones of St. Louis gave a presentation on Birdscaping Saturday at the Fredericktown branch of the Ozark Regional Library.

The Fredericktown branch of the Ozark Regional Library went a little "wild" Saturday as it welcomed Wild Ones of Southeast Missouri to give a crash course in Birdscaping.

Marsha Gebhardt from the St. Louis Chapter of Wild Ones gave the presentation teaching those in attendance the benefits of planting native plants and how they help attract wildlife. 

Gebhardt said choosing native plants does more than help the birds it also provides pollen and nectar, serves as host plants for butterflies, creates nesting for bees, habitats for insects and shelter for mammals.

The motto for Wild Ones is "Healing the Earth one yard at a time." 

With more than 50 chapters, the national organization is leading the natural landscaping movement to help explore, teach and change the practice of gardening in communities and around the country.

"Messy gardening helps birds," Gebhardt said. "For the best benefit, leave flowers and stems standing past their prime, until spring, so that the birds have opportunity to eat the seeds."

Gebhardt said if you prefer a tidier approach seed heads can be cut and dropped on the ground and leaves can be raked to a particular area. She said leaf litter helps provide insects for birds to eat and brush piles create good shelter.

"As a defense against hungry wildlife, including caterpillars, plants have evolved to harbor a host of chemical toxins in their leaves," Gebhardt said. "In response, each butterfly and moth species has evolved to be resistant to the toxins of just a small number of plants so their caterpillars have something to feed on."

Gebhardt said non-native plants have not been here long enough for the insects to develop the resistance to the toxins, therefore they do not serve as host plants.

"Did you know that 96 percent of North American bird species feed their chicks caterpillars and other insects," Gebhardt said. "Insects are full of protein that nurture healthy chick bodies. Songbirds feed their babies as often as four to twelve times an hour."

Gebhardt said the insect population is important to the healthy bird population and without the native plants to supply a good source of food, they could be in trouble.

"You may already be putting it together," Gebhardt said. "If birds need caterpillars for their life cycle and caterpillars need native plants for their life cycle, then birds need native plants to survive."

Southeast Missouri Wild Ones meets monthly in different locations throughout the region. There next event will be March 9 for the Native Plant Seminar at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center.

For more information find Wild Ones Southeast MO on Facebook or contact Linda Bennett at wbennett301@sbcglobal.net or call 573-546-0707.

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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