Every corner of your garden is a habitat for the thousands of native species living in and around our homes each day. From the fallen leaves of autumn to the fresh blooms of spring, the plants around your backyard are a super highway for all kinds of wildlife. Whether you’re searching for birds, bugs or bunnies, this instalment of Backyard Safari will be looking at the plant life all kinds of animals rely on to survive!
Here’s what we’ll learn:
- What is pollination and why do we need it?
- What kinds of animals in the UK eat plants?
- Do plants eat food?
- How do animals use plants to survive?
The plant life in our garden forms an intricate web of support systems for our native wildlife, and is a vital resource, for all kinds of reasons! For example, we know that lots of plants reproduce by a process called pollination. Pollination is a process where pollen from one flower is passed on to another, and is performed by bees flying from plant to plant to collect nectar. We rely on this process for lots of the food we eat, some fruits such as cherries and blueberries rely on bees for up to 90% of the produce we consume here in the UK!
Bee populations are declining across the UK, meaning we could be in lots of trouble. There are ways we can help support and encourage our bees from home, by planting some of their favourite flora in our gardens, like lavender!
Bees pollinating lavender
Just like us, lots of animals rely on plants for food. Some birds, such as Robins, as well as small mammals like squirrels, eat the little red berries produced by the Guelder Rose shrub, other animals like horses or rabbits eat grass, and rodents such as field mice love to eat seeds!
Native Guelder Rose berries
Plants are very different to animals as they don’t gain energy by eating food, but instead through a process called photosynthesis. This means that they absorb energy from the sun into proteins called chlorophyll – this is what makes plants green! We can always tell which plants are healthiest by how green their leaves are – what are the healthiest plants in your back garden?
Tawny Owl camouflaged against tree bark
Other animals use plants not just to eat, but also to live in and camouflage themselves. We all know lots of birds build nests high up in trees, but they also like to use the plants to help disguise themselves from both predator and prey. Tawny owls use their brown, grey and white feathers to disguise themselves against tree bark, for example! Other animals like frogs also use camouflage against the natural backdrop in order to stay out of harms way, or catch a quick meal!
What kinds of plants do you have taking root in your very own Backyard Safari? Share your photos and stories with us via Facebook or Twitter, using #BackyardSafari!
[Image Credit: Roel Meijer via Getty]