Hidden in Evansville yards, native plant gardens are an oasis for bees, caterpillars, butterflies, other insects, and the songbirds that eat them. Supported by research by Douglas Tallamy, a professor of agriculture and natural resources at the University of Delaware and author of “Nature’s Best Hope,” these local greenspaces are a simple, but critical way residents can benefit the Tri-State.
According to the National Audubon Society (named for Henderson, Kentucky, resident and ornithologist John James Audubon), Tallamy found that 96 percent of all terrestrial bird species in North America feed insects to their young. A native oak tree can support the caterpillars of 500 species of butterflies and moths, whereas a non-native ginkgo tree would support just five caterpillar species, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Inspired by Tallamy’s research and a love of birds, friends and Evansvillians Julie Smith and Adam Hape founded Goldfinch Native Plant Nursery out of their homes in August 2020. Goldfinch sells native plants grown from seeds sourced in and around Southern Indiana in spring and fall sales. As national and local attention on native plants has increased, Goldfinch’s sales have relocated to the Vanderburgh County 4-H Center due to popularity.
“Our customers are anywhere from expert level to people who are not really sure what a native plant is,” says Smith. “People are definitely interested, and it’s been fun to talk and try to educate people.”
Smith and Hape each transformed their lawns into flourishing native ecosystems and are committed to helping others do the same. As members of the Indiana Native Plant Society Southwest Chapter, they recommend the group as a resource for beginners and veterans.
According to the Indiana Wildlife Federation, native plants are also beneficial for their low maintenance, requiring no fertilizer, no pesticides, and less water than non-native species.
“Native plants are tough for the most part,” says Hape. “They evolved here, and they’re ready to thrive here.”
Busy Bees ~ facebook.com/GoldfinchNativePlantNursery