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More Flowers and Animals of Summer in a Louisiana Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat
It is summer here in our National Wildlife Federation certified backyard habitat in St. Tammany Parish. The warm weather flowers are blooming and the birds, insects and animals are reproducing. We have taken some photographs that you may enjoy of the plants and animals in our little corner of the world.
So, come on along on a virtual walk around the cultivated portion of our habitat. There are more introduced plants up here by the house and it's not quite as wild as the woods and river, but you still may be surprised at what you see lurking in the bushes.
We provide food, water, shelter and nesting sites for all manner of wildlife and our nine acres has been registered as an official backyard habitat (number 21235) by the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat Program. There are no restrictions on our property. The certification is simply a pledge that we took to restore and maintain the native habitats which are rapidly being destroyed.
Actually, this is our second certified backyard habitat. Our first one was registered in the 1980s, in our suburban yard in Baton Rouge, LA. We were one of the first 4000 in the United States to take the pledge. You don't have to have acreage to provide for the wildlife.
On the Levee
Around the Pond
Let's start our little tour at the pond. It is a source of water for the creatures that live in our habitat and it also is another habitat within itself. We have planted many flowering and fruiting plants around the pond and also let some of the self-seeding native plants grow.
Bluebird nest boxes with predator baffles have been placed on three sides of our pond. One is designed for smaller birds and has been used by Brown-headed Nuthatches and also Carolina Chickadees.
Each year a pair of Eastern Bluebirds nests in one of the other two boxes. This year they raised two broods.
On the levee near the house, we planted a Lemon Bottlebrush shrub named 'Little John'. It now towers about 20 feet in the air and from spring to fall is covered with red nectar rich flowers.
Many butterflies and hummingbirds use the flowers. As summer progresses, some of the butterflies, like this Tiger Swallowtail, start to look a little ragged as a result of close calls with birds.
Gulf Fritillaries flock to the semi-tropical Sultan's Turban or Turk's Cap, which comes back strong each year. Hummingbirds also use the nectar rich flowers. Fruit eating birds enjoy the red fruits that appear in the late summer and fall.
I simply adore the Encore Azaleas. They call them encore because they bloom two or three times each year. There are many different colors available, from deep coral and rose to white.
This is a really old type of oriental Rhododendrons that we found on the place, so I'm not sure of its name. It blooms in spring and again in summer. Butterflies and other pollinators use them. What a prize!
Native Pickerel Weed
Some Native Plants in Our Habitat
Pickerel Weed, Pontederia cordata, is a native plant that grows in wet areas. Many insects like this Hummingbird moth drink the nectar. It is also used by hummingbirds. The seeds are edible and I'm told are quite delicious. Wood ducks and other animals enjoy them, too.
Spotted Horsemint, Monarda punctata, is a native mint. Butterflies simply adore this plant. It is a perennial that is very easy to grow from seed. Its leaves have a minty, Bee Balm smell.
Unlike many of the other native members of the Helianthus family which flower in the fall, Ashy Sunflower blooms in summer. If planted in good soil, Helianthus mollis can multiply quickly. However, I haven't had that problem because mine is planted in the hard clay of the levee. The Helianthus family has beautiful golden yellow flowers that are used by butterflies. The seeds are eaten by song birds.
After the brilliant red spikes of flowers of the Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) fade, the seed pods form. Each rounded pod holds a few "buckeyes", which are large, shiny, roundish brown seeds, that some think looks like the eye of a buck deer. The red flower spikes are favorites of the Ruby-throated hummingbird.
Red Texas Star Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus, is a beautiful native member of the Mallow or Hibiscus family. It grows in wet areas, but is almost as happy in a well watered flower bed or a rain garden. It is easy to start from seeds sewn in good soil in the fall or early spring. This native hibiscus in a favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.
Feeders and Flower Beds
Hidden Ginger is an old southern favorite and can be found growing in abandoned homesites in south Louisiana. There are a few varieties of this lush plant. One has pinkish purple veins on the leaves. The bloom is especially lovely with it's shades of pink and yellow. It grows from a corm that looks a lot like the Ginger root spice that you buy. It is edible, though not as strong as the Ginger root that you buy.
Green Anoles are lovely little lizards. In the summer, the hatchlings begin to venture out among the bushes in search of tiny insects. Anoles are welcome in our sustainable landscape and organic garden. We enjoy watching them hunt and court. The males try to attract the females' attention by displaying their reddish throats.
Mimosa trees attract both butterflies, like this Pipevine Swallowtail and hummingbirds. They reseed readily and we have many volunteers popping up all over our yard. When they bloom, they are beautiful.
Cottontail rabbits live in our habitat. We love to see them hop around in the early morning or late afternoon as they munch on the "weeds" in the yard. This one visits the area around the bird feeder where my husband sometimes puts rabbit food. The Blue Jays enjoy the sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
We utilize what is available in our habitat. Most of the logs were from trees that were knocked down by Hurricane Katrina. They make excellent shelf type feeders. We cut them long so that it is more difficult for predators to jump up on them. When they rot, they provide homes for insects, which are eaten by the woodpeckers. Finally, they enrich the soil and the cycle of life begins again.
Our rain garden is a wide swale in front of the house which captures and contains storm water run off from the hard surfaces, before allowing it to drain to another garden in a lower part of the yard. We have pots of flowering and fruiting plants and also many that are planted in the ground. Most of the plants in the rain garden have some benefit for wildlife.
This tropical Jamaican Vervain is a wonderful shrub that is used by hummingbirds and butterflies. I always take many cuttings in the fall and try to bring at least one of each color into the greenhouse, because hard freezes will kill it.
For more information about how to garden for wildlife and how to get your backyard certified by the National Wildlife Federation visit their Backyard Habitat Program page. You may also find the video below helpful.
Certified Wildlife Habitats - Certifying Your Yard
Backyard Habitat Poll
Would you be interested in creating a backyard wildlife habitat?
Links to More About Habitats
- Planting for Birds and Wildlife
Welcoming birds and animals into our yard has been a most enjoyable experience. The beauty and motion that they add to the landscape makes the garden that w
- Preserving Native Habitats in Louisiana
Scientists from all over the world, like Douglas Tallamy the author of Bringing Nature Home, are advocating using native plants in sustainable, ecologically