Traditional wildlife gardening would have you plant a selection of bird and butterfly plants. But this is not enough. The native weed plants, native trees and shrubs are what is required. There are 5000 weed seeds in every square foot of healthy soil, if we just allow them to emerge by stepping back or if needed, scraping off or scarifying a lawn to allow light and space to activate them. Next, introduce cuttings and seeds from locally sourced native tree and shrub species. 

So the  idea is to remove non native invasive plants, as they don’t support a local web of life to reboot, they are not partners with any of the invertebrates who are very plant specific for reproduction and food.  Native weeds, shrubs and trees are what they need. This will bring as much life support into your Ark as possible!

If you web search your local area to find a list of host plants for native invertebrates you will find what you need usually. You can slowly introduce seeds and cuttings from locally sourced native shrubs and trees once the ‘weed seeds have started to heal the soil and reboot the ecosystem.

If your soil is damaged or devoid of weed seeds, you will observe no life emerging in the first year, so you may either collect a selection of local weed seeds or reboot using a locally native organic wildflower meadow seed mix.

Here is one stark reason why native plants are needed.

Birds only forage for food for their young within a 50-100 metre area around the nest site and they need to collect up to 1000 caterpillars and spiders a day to feed a clutch of babies… a day!… and this continues after they have fledged for a few weeks….that’s a serious undertaking. They both start collecting food at dawn and keep going until dark. We saw this in our nest camera at Claire and Joe’s Irish forest garden last spring and I couldn’t believe the quantity of food they were finding, but it’s because they have an Ark and host plants are present in abundance.

What is not understood in traditional wildlife gardening is that feeding birds and pollinators like butterflies is not enough. The reproductive cycle has to be understood if you want to have a new generation of these creatures, if they are to survive. Birds don’t feed the young on seeds or berries, they feed them on approximately 20% insects and 80% caterpillars. The caterpillars are not present unless the host plants are present in your land. They are very plant specific. They are generally specialists in only one plant, each caterpillar species, so without the wild host plants (native weeds and trees) the caterpillars will not be present and the birds will not reproduce. Insect populations have dropped around 75% worldwide and the loss of host plants is massive. Hence the serious reduction in bird populations, amphibians, small mammals etc (this and chemicals of course) . We have been trained to pull out the weeds and import lots of pretty plants that have nothing to do with the delicate balance of life in a native ecosystem. 

If you have a link about host plants in your area, please send along & we’ll add to the list. Some of these links may include recommendations to use chemicals to remove non-native invasives. However, no chemicals whatsoever are allowed in an ARK! They cause more problems than they solve. More plant resources can be found at our Links & Resources page!

Ireland & UK:
Host plants for moths & butterflies
A more wide ranging list for all invertebrates and their food plants

United States:
North Carolina – Native Plants for Wildlife