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Changing Perceptions: What’s your definition of a beautiful landscape?

Written on: March 7th, 2018 in Outreach

by Brittany Haywood, DNREC Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

What is your version of a naturally beautiful area?

Is it this?

Photo 1. Manicured lawn and stream.

Or is it this?

Photo 2. Natural stream.

We as humans tend to want things orderly and precise, I know I do. But when it comes to natural environments, nature has a way of organizing itself. It can sometimes appear messy and chaotic, but believe it or not there actually is a method to nature’s madness.

Take a look at the pictures above, which one do you think provides food, homes, and safety from predators to the most wildlife? If you guessed the second, you would be right.

Northern red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys reburiventris) basking in the Christina River.

Landscape features such as fallen down trees create great places for turtles to sun themselves, birds to perch, fishes to hide, and can shade the water below helping to keep it cool and reduce algal growth.

The low native plants next to the waterway on the right side of Photo 2 may look unruly to some, but frogs, hummingbirds and butterflies will probably think they struck gold if they hopped or flew into this place. Who wouldn’t want breakfast, lunch, and dinner served safely right on their doorstep?

In the winter these plants die off, but the dead stems still continue to provide great shelter and food to help small critters survive the winter. They can also put nutrients back into the soil as they decompose, helping the plants to grow bigger and stronger the following year.

What should you do?

Nature has the ability to craft itself to what it needs, and “leaving things be” can be the best way to get the native plants and animals back into your yard.

English Ivy taking over the landscape.

With all that being said, invasive plants can become unruly and cause major problems in all types of environments. Vines like honeysuckle, ivy, or wisteria and trees like bamboo can rapidly take over and push out wildlife by making conditions unlivable. So if invasive plants are taking over your landscape, then by all means pull or chop away!

The next time you plan on pulling that fallen down tree out of the stream, mowing right up to the water’s edge, or pulling up dead native plants in the fall, don’t. Consider leaving them for a little “natural” decoration, the wildlife will love you, and you may get to see a few critters you haven’t seen before.

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Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program