Do day lillies benefit wildlife?

docmom_gw(5)

I didn't know where to post this question. I've been noticing the plantings around the businesses near my new office. There are a bunch of new professional buildings that went up near a new hospital, and every one has day lillies. I understand the attraction (kind of) but I don't think a single insect or bird benefits from them being around. It seems like such a waste of an investment. Can anyone correct me and tell me they are an excellent nectar source or a host for a little-known moth? I desperately want to sprinkle some seeds around, but they'd just get sprayed with chemicals. Any thoughts?

Martha

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gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

They are indeed a good nectar source for bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

And it is appropriate to understand that commercial plantings do not necessarily focus on the same criteria we use when selecting plants for our own gardens or when restoring natural areas. Uniform appearance and ease of maintenance are the typical requirements and these do not always coincide with the suitability of planting natives exclusively.


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texasranger2

I wouldn't worry about chemicals, Day Lily seems to be immune at least in my experience, I don't think you can kill them unless you dig them up. They came so early to the country and are scattered so far and wide they are practically a nationalized native at this point, adding more wouldn't really matter. They remind me of the early settlers when I see them in the country or along the roadsides, maybe we could consider them historical markers of early settlers. You always see them at abandoned farms growing happily.

Pollinators do benefit day lilies, I know that much but not much else except that they will grow anywhere in any kind of soil or light condition where not much else will.

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docmom_gw(5)

Thank you both. I am a bit relieved. And I do understand the motivation for using what is a very carefree, uniform-appearing plant. But clumps of native grasses and lavender or salvias or Nepeta would serve as well. I guess the pollinator issue is making me a bit more short tempered than usual. It is good to know that the day lillies are't as useless as I thought.

Martha

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W
Understandable, this might also help
http://tacticalintelligence.net/blog/wild-edibles-the-daylily.htm
You'd have to know if they'd been sprayed, but I like them more knowing they contribute to edible landscaping.
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I was thinking the same thing, W Brown. I have eaten them several times in Chinese food.

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edlincoln(6A)

The problem with the mixed, diverse garden with multiple native plants is it is difficult for the landscapers to recognize all the native plants in all the properties they work on when they aren't in bloom. Thus they either underweed (and leave weeds hiding in the mixed border) or overweed (and remove expensive plants). The people who do the weeding often aren't highly trained...they are paid minimum wage, work part time, and are often either teenagers or non-English speakers.

The all day lily garden is better then what you usually get. Grass of course doesn't benefit pollinators. Lots of landscapers in the area plant bulbs in the spring, rip them out. replace them with impatients and other annuals, rip them out...it seems kind of wasteful.

The problem with a monoculture, of course, is it provides lots of nectar one time of year, then nothing when it's not in bloom.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Grasses have lots of wildlife value even though they don't provide nectar. Some grasses are host plants for pollinator larvae. A number of skippers, for instance, feed on big bluestem and little bluestem. Birds eat grass seeds and various insects that feed on grasses, and may use the grasses for nesting and cover.

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agardenstateof_mind(USDA 7 NJ)

Martha, your concern is well founded.

According to reports several credible sources, our pollinators are in trouble due to loss and fragmentation of habitat. They are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the food we eat. At last report, the monarch butterfly overwintering population was down 90%. There are also many beneficial insects that keep many pest insects under control. Furthermore, many birds, even the seed-eaters, rely heavily on insects - mainly caterpillars - for food for their young (if I remember correctly, insects make up 90% of a baby bird's diet, 80% of which is caterpillars).

If we don't begin to see our gardens and landscapes as a part of nature, rather than apart from it, with everyone pitching in and doing their part, then the pollinators ... and the birds ... and we ... are going to be in serious trouble. Great essay by Doug Tallamy explains clearly why we need to begin to select our plantings for their environmental function: http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/03/the-chickadees-guide-to-gardening/


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texasranger2

Day lily's attract and are pollinated by hawkmoth and swallowtail butterflies. They are drought tolerant and their fibrous roots prevent erosion. As tough plants they need much less watering than many other types of plants so that is an ecological benefit and they will grow in difficult sites, around here that sometimes means where practically nothing else will grow. They have been around so long they have become naturalized and I wouldn't be concerned about seeing them planted around businesses, they are quite low maintenance.

In order to stay objective on the subject of natives only, I've been looking into available information and I discover other environmentalists disagree with people such as Doug Tallamy on certain issues. There are several others who abhor certain tactics being pushed by 'native's only' purists .

http://www.patternliteracy.com/644-saving-native-wildlife-with-invasive-plants

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Stephen Jay Gould has also written with great passion and perspicacity (there's my $10 word for the day!) about this conundrum. And not too long ago, I found what I felt was an excellent large-scale rebuttal of the "exotics always and everywhere crowd out natives" belief system behind so much of the nativists thoughts. While I don't recall that author right at the moment (I could and would dig it up if anyone is curious), among the rather amazing findings of this paper, all of which, BTW, dealt with the bad rap that purple loosestrife has gotten, are that in all too many cases, the "source" for such pronouncements has been other articles, not necessarily peer-reviewed scientific articles, but rather, just an echo chamber effect of one author adopting ad hoc the words and meaning of another. So some articles have for their source, other magazine articles! That's not science in my understanding of the term.

None of which is to say there are no problems being caused by invasive exotic species. But rather, one must take each case separately, on its own merits.

+oM

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texasranger2

I thought of how fluid and changing nature is compared to the rigid attitudes and rigorism being touted by some people so when I looked into it, not deeply mind you, I found several theories exist and I plan to read more. It appears to me that we can't accurately predict or make final judgements about the long term effects in many situations & I agree that each case must be approached separately on its own merits. Its likely that if you take extreme theories on either end of the conundrum, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle and differs from place to place. I thought of the busy native prairie zealots you spoke about that are so keen to bring things back to what they insist was originally prairie up there where you live wisconsitom. It seems that if an idea gets repeated often and loudly enough it becomes accepted as an indisputable fact in many peoples minds. I found it interesting to read that native zealots sometimes do a lot of damage in their quest for purity when they want to start ripping out plants whole scale in areas that wildlife have adapted to. One example was the eucalyptus trees in California which the monarchs have happily adapted to using as their winter nesting sites. Another I read about was the zeal of some people saying they needed to rip out all crepe myrtles that had popped up down south in a restoration project which were not objectionable to the wildlife that inhabited the area. The idea of purity was behind it like an insane obsession.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Couldn't agree more, Tex. And while I find it maddening that all too many mainstream landscape contractors remain oblivious to the problems associated with invasive exotic species, the attitudes and actions of the opposite crowd are perhaps even more reprehensible. It reminds me just a bit of something we say in the wetland delineation business: So, many of the sites we're tasked with delineating contain a plethora of invasive and exotic species, yet we-me and some others-still say, a degraded wetland is still hugely beneficial to wildlife and to that location's hydrology. Some, taking an obvious and to me, unwarranted logical shortcut, say things like, "well, it's all buckthorn and crap plants anyway, may as well be developed" kind of idea. I revolt at that thought process, whereby nature is somehow taken to task for being degraded, by us! That won't fly with this (old) kid!

+oM

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texasranger2

I agree about the landscapers concerning invasive exotics but I applaud the efforts I see going on more often around here along medians and around office buildings with plantings consisting of water-wise, well behaved decorative plants such as crape myrtle, hybrid lantana, day lilies, chaste tree, zinnias, ornamental and native grasses, russian sage etc. That doesn't mean I want to plant them myself but still, it is attractive + low maintenance.

Its hotter than hot here currently as we hover around 100 for days on end and these plants all perform like troopers in our long, hot, dry summers, adding much needed color around the city which would otherwise be quite drab in mid summer. Of course there are the disasters like Callery Pear trees and I am now suspecting they will rue the day they started using Ravenna Grass along the highways and in medians. My neighbors 3 year old specimen has shown its dark aggressive side this summer as it tries to invade my little prairie as an imposter. I cannot believe how many seedlings I have pulled so far and its frightening to think about such a huge, fast growing alien grass taking over the surrounding countryside which I think is highly possible.

I don't mind seeing contrived, uniform landscapes in the city around businesses, hospitals etc, I expect it. It certainly beats letting trees, weeds, underbrush and anything else that decides to take hold run rampant like it would in the country or slums or seeing water being wasted on less tolerant plants. In the city it quickly becomes urban blight if landscaping is not controlled by maintenance crews and I see plenty of that going on. Maybe its better for wildlife but its depressingly awful to look at not to mention destructive to buildings, power lines, streets etc .


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