Planting Milkweed in Oregon for Monarchs

For the first time I saw a monarch at my farm in McMinnville this past summer. And I either saw it on five separate days or I saw up to five of them. And while it is one of the most familiar North American butterflies, and is considered an important pollinator, it is a rare sight indeed for the North Willamette Valley.

The Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus is famous for its annual migrations, from eastern North America to the mountains of central Mexico, and from western North America including Oregon to the coast of California. When they reach their destination they rest for the cool winter months in large aggregations containing millions of individuals. Monarch larvae feed on milkweeds of the family Asclepiadaceae, from which they sequester glycosides that make them unpalatable to birds and other predators.

Estimates are that the monarch population has declined by 90% in the last 25 years due to habitat loss. That is why in June 2015, President Obama Continue reading “Planting Milkweed in Oregon for Monarchs”

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Creating A Wildlife Corridor

As we build more housing developments and shopping centers we cut up the existing landscape and create pockets of animal habitat that are often too small to sustain healthy populations for very long. This habitat fragmentation is one of the number one threats to wildlife because it isolates populations of animals causing inbreeding and often cuts off those species that need to travel to breeding sites. A wildlife corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures such as roads and parking lots.

These wildlife corridors provide cover that allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity that often occurs with isolated populations. Birds, bees and butterflies are not as dependent on wildlife corridors because they can fly over the impediments, but mammals, reptiles and amphibians benefit greatly by Continue reading “Creating A Wildlife Corridor”

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Best Crabapple Tree for Feeding Birds

I have tested berried shrubs and trees for years trying to find the best ones to feed birds. If you read the labels at your local nursery you will find that every plant that has a berry also has a tag that says “attracts birds”. But this is just marketing copy and very few have any value to birds. However one crabapple performs beautifully in the Willamette Valley. Continue reading “Best Crabapple Tree for Feeding Birds”

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Natural Bird Baths Support More Wildlife

Anyone who gardens knows that water is one of the four important elements needed to attract wildlife. But before you run to the local garden center to buy a man-made cement bowl on a pedestal, you might want to consider a natural birdbath.

I have nothing against cement bird baths. At Woodward Gardens we installed a classic bird bath in one of the raised beds. The birds love it and best of all it is hooked up to the drip irrigation system so every time the garden is watered the bath is filled. But nothing other than birds has been seen using it. Continue reading “Natural Bird Baths Support More Wildlife”

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Building a Hibernaculum

In the Willamette Valley, we do not have winters with prolonged deep freezes. So if you want to build your own hibernaculum here in Oregon, most of the plans online will not be appropriate. Our frost line rarely exceeds seven inches and building a hibernaculum six feet deep is a waste of time.

I am in the USDA plant hardiness zone 8b with winter temps down to 10 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Reptiles for the most part only need to be twelve or so inches underground to be safe. So here is my hibernaculum plan:

Picking a Hibernaculum Site

Hibernaculum sites should be sloped Continue reading “Building a Hibernaculum”

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