Insects don't need native plants?

“The second point is that Tallamy’s own research discovered that about 85% percent native plants are not used for caterpillar herbivory.” (emphasis added)

Of course caterpillars are only a subset of insect herbivores, but can you please provide a reference for this? I believe this is a gross misrepresentation of Tallamy’s actual research. (EDIT: never mind. If the authors of the Garden Rant column wish to re-argue their claims in the iNaturalist forum, I suggest they start a new discussion to do so.)


“We can thank Doug Tallamy for reassurance that plant-eating insects are as likely to eat non-native plants as they are native plants.” (emphasis added)

Can you provide a reference for this? This seems to me a gross misrepresentation of Tallamy’s actual research. (EDIT: never mind. If the authors of the Garden Rant column wish to re-argue their claims in the iNaturalist forum, I suggest they start a new discussion to do so.)


@dkaposi thank you for those suggestions, I’ve joined the Pollinator Associations group and am going back through my observations to document the plants the insects were observed on, and I’m also doing this going forward. I have a diverse garden, with both non-native and native plants, but the native plants clearly have the largest number and greatest diversity of native pollinators visiting them. A locally native species, Monarda punctata, has been a great plant for attracting Hymenoptera–small solitary bees but especially solitary wasps–most of which I rarely if ever see visiting any of the non-native flowers in my garden. My close observations are paying off as I recently observed one of these wasps (Ammophila sp., Sphecidae) dragging its paralyzed caterpillar prey into its burrow:


That debate can happen elsewhere. This forum is for iNaturalist and related topics. Bringing debates over from other sites is not what it’s for. Let’s please move on.


Digging down thru iNat I found a lovely obs of that bee on Hemimeris!


Regarding the examples @conserv gave (darwin finches, moths, etc.): although cited, none of these examples have anything to do with invasive species.

Invasives are a problem, and where I live nature hasn’t improved at all, or resolved by itself, the emerald ash borer beetle problem ( Ash trees are disappearing because of this.

Autumn olives are another problem, and are choking out literally everything else. they grow all over my property and I hate them. here is something from MSU talking about them:

Although your comment that I am replying to is well written and cited, I would respectfully like to say the examples you gave do not have anything to do with invasives.

With invasives, they take over very fast and can lower the biodiversity of an area significantly. things like multiflora rose and autumn olive sprawl over large patches where a more useful, diverse group of plant species could be growing.


I am intending to provide useful links and a respectful reply in this post. I hope that I am not bringing debates from other sites, I think, when I re-read my post, that it is staying iNat- related, please do let me know if I stepped over any lines and I will be happy to rewrite/delete my post.

I did provide a citation. Here it is again: Tallamy, Doug, “Flipping the Paradigm: Landscapes that Welcome Wildlife,” chapter in Christopher, Thomas, The New American Landscape, Timber Press, 2011 I have quoted Tallamy verbatim from that publication.

In my opinion, it’s far more useful for us to add plants where none exist, rather than bicker about which plants are ideal. With the climate crisis looming, I’m more than happy to ally myself with people whose opinions are different than mine in order to get the most good done.

Sure, there are species that are massively destructive to planted / wild areas. But any biodiversity is better than a parking lot, an oil fracker, or a pesticide- and runoff-filled dead river. Our energy, money, and time are limited – let’s not waste what we’ve got.


Maybe this is not fully the right post for this. But back in 2013, Philippe de Spoelberch wrote an article about Magnolia’s. Mainly the ones in his Arboretum. ( He brings up the fact that some Asian Magnolia’s have to be hand-pollinated, since there are no pollinating insects for certain Magnolia’s in Belgium. (page 27 of the pdf.)

(Interesting read, if you’re into Magnolia’s btw.)

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Say that to Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica). It’s destroying almost all native plants. It’s taking over entire forests. I’d much rather have a parking lot instead of that filth :sob:.

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These kinds of hypothetical choices just don’t exist in real life. There’s never a town vote to decide if we want a parking lot over, to use @belgianferns’ example, a Japanese knotweed infested lot.

There are some additional problems with this line of logic:

  1. With an ever decreasing amount of natural areas, why would we settle for something only marginally better than a parking lot? Shouldn’t we strive for something more ecologically productive?
  2. If parking lots must be built, isn’t it far better to remove a Callery Pear thicket over a lot with native plants?
  3. Invasive plants are not restricted to their lots. By allowing Callery Pear thickets and Japanese knotweed patches to persist, you are putting surrounding natural areas at greater risk of degradation via invasion.

The only time I think this argument holds any weight is when you are comparing a garden with non-native plants that are not known to be invasive, and a heavily manicured lawn. In this case, you are picking the lesser of two evils between two non-native dominated options. But this circles back to number 1 above, why settle when you can have a native plant garden that contributes so much more?

I truly don’t understand this idea that native plants are somehow lesser than non-natives or that the same amount of beauty cannot be achieved with natives. I have a friend who started with a tiny suburban yard with literally nothing special about it. Over the years, he’s turned it into a beautiful native plant garden, and now he hosts one of the highest yard lists of anyone reporting on eBird for the state of Georgia. The plants are the only thing setting his yard apart. His house doesn’t border a forest or natural area, he doesn’t live in a particularly bird diverse part of the state, and he doesn’t use any supplemental bird seed (he does have a naturalistic water feature).


You are not quoting Tallamy verbatim in the sentence I specifically asked about, “We can thank Doug Tallamy for reassurance that plant-eating insects are as likely to eat non-native plants as they are native plants"; you are making an interpretation (in my opinion, a grossly self-serving misrepresentation) of an out-of-context quote in a secondary source.

This kind of cherrypicking, confirmation bias, and outright misrespresentation has no place in the iNatForum. As always, go to the original source. Anybody who wants to know what Erin Reed’s research was really about (hint: it didn’t conclude what Mary claims seems to think it concluded) can read it at:

But more germane to the current discussion is the reference already provided above by @swampster, Non-native plants reduce abundance, richness, and host specialization in lepidopteran communities: “Non-native plants supported significantly fewer caterpillars of significantly fewer specialist and generalist species even when the non-natives were close relatives of native host plants.”


The original question here was about iNat projects:

I’d like for it the discussion to focus on that question, and let’s try to not let it hijacked by people coming in from outside the community to continue debates generated elsewhere. If there aren’t more posts about iNat projects and/or iNat data about these associations, maybe it’s best to close this topic and perhaps start a focused topic discussing general data about native vs non-native plants and their impact on insects.

FWIW here’s a project that iNatter alexis_amphibian has been super diligent about adding obs and obs fields to. I suspect a pretty good analysis could be made from the data there.


Which leaves the question open: suppose that, instead, the native cycad had been the one achieving that level of popularity? So the butterfly adapted to the presence of a nonnative cycad in the absence of its native host plant. Okay. That still does not mean that the nonnative is better, unless there is a comparison with replanting the native cycad on the same scale.

An apt comparison. The reason many people are averse to vegetables is usually because vegetables do not taste like the high-fat meats and sugary treats that people grow accustomed to. When you compare a native rose with a modern rose cultivar, a native violet with a pansy cutivar, a native maple with one of the fancy colored Japanese maple cultivars, a native ground cover with one of the golden or variegated creeping thyms cultivars, you can see the similarity with your food analogy. People accustomed to horticultural wonders tend to assume that wild-type plants are blah.

This suggests a possible different angle when promoting the use of natives.

It seems to me that this would be a more appropriate means for the Garden Rant folks to make their case rather than just posting to the forums. If you can open an iNaturalist Forums account, then you can open an iNaturalist account, post such observations, make a project of them, and promote the project through your journal posts. Then we could see for ourselves the truth (or otherwise) of what you are trying to tell us.


I’d argue that people just aren’t looking at the right natives. This new england aster I saw this weekend was stunning


Tallamy interpreted Erin Reed’s study, not me. As faculty supervisor of her study, he summarized her conclusion: "After two years of measurements Erin found that only a tiny percentage of leaves were damaged on either set of properties at the end of the season….Erin’s most important result, however, was that there was no statistical difference in the amount of damage on either landscape type.” I haven’t misquoted him.

I read Erin’s study when I read Tallamy’s description of it years ago. Her lengthy “conclusion” section speculates about why she found roughly equal amounts of insect predation in native and non-native gardens. Her speculation makes for interesting reading but points to the need for more research, rather than explaining her data.

Your implications of nefarious motivation on my part are not appropriate or helpful. I won’t intrude on your iNaturalist space, but will defend myself from personal attacks when needed. If you will stop attacking me, I will gladly stop posting comments.

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This thread continues to go off topic so I’m going to close it.