Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Biodiversity Project 2020 Recommendations

California buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum, grows in dense swathes of blush and white. Try it in your garden this year to support our Los Angeles pollinators.

The Larchmont Buzz is pleased to report on the progress of Los Angeles’ Biodiversity Index, a program developed and managed by LA Sanitation & Environment. Because of interest by its Sustainability Committee Chair, Julie Stromberg, our Greater Wilshire Nighborhood Council is also the first to partner with LASAN in meeting the city’s outlined biodiversity goals…such as protecting biodiversity, creating habitats for wildlife, and contributing data using iNaturalist.

The City of Los Angeles is committed to enhancing and maintaining its urban biodiversity. One of the Urban Ecosystem & Resilience targets in LA’s Sustainable City pLAn is no-net-loss of native biodiversity by 2050. The Biodiversity Index and pilot project are important steps in meeting this 2050 target.

Los Angeles is situated in what scientists call the California Floristic Province, a “biodiversity hotspot,” which charts along the California coast and is home to more than 6,000 specific organisms commonly found in our state. However, our human-centric way of life is threatening the very natural resources, plants, and animals which make California unique. For instance, in Santa Barbara County, a federally and state-endangered species, the Gaviota tar plant, is at risk of extinction due to real estate development in the niche habitat where it grows. In 2020 we must do our part in order to sustain life for all living things. In allegiance and partnership with LASAN and city stated goals, here are our suggestions:

1. Protect Existing Biodiversity

Protecting biodiversity first and foremost boils down to avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Products composed of harsh chemical ingredients not only damage the delicate biome of microflora that aid plants in nutrient uptake, but their chemical runoff pollutes our waterways and harms ocean life. We suggest using organic amendments, which are retained in soil at much higher levels and are good for the environment. Try Malibu Compost, a local business that farms its own organic soil products in collaboration with cattle farmers.

But what if caterpillars are eating your garden? Or rodents are digging up your lawn? I sat down with native plant expert Katherine Pakradouni to learn about her best practices when it comes to pest control. She advises for a mindfully passive approach — one that allows nature to create healthy ecosystem functioning for us — and reminds us to be wary of pest mitigation efforts that inadvertently endanger other animals.

Nature’s Solution

“Our desired aesthetics and cultural notion of what a garden looks like often lead to us to intervene in ways that are unsupportive to the ecological balance in your backyard,” Pakradouni said. She suggests patience when working with issues of infestation and disease, strongly urging gardeners to wait before spraying with pesticides or using soaps and oils. 

“If you can tolerate the sight of aphids on your plant for just a little while, predators like the lacewing fly or ladybug, species whose larvae feed on aphids, will take care of the problem for you. If you were to treat your plant, you would not only be killing aphids, but also the larvae of these predators which need aphids to survive.”

Pakradouni also warns gardeners and home owners of the deleterious effects of glue traps and rat poison. “While rats and mice reproduce at exponential rates, birds are slow breeders,” she said. “When glue traps or poison are used on mice and rat populations, we inadvertently endanger these animals’ avian predators.” For example, a rat that has died from ingesting poison is a deadly meal to a North American Barn Owl, a species that feeds on rodents and is found primarily along the west coast. Glue traps can ensnare birds too and damage their wings, affecting their ability to compete or hunt for food.

Safer Spray

Prevention also plays an important part in maintaining garden health. When a plant is failing, diseased, or attracting pests, trouble-shoot by considering factors like sun exposure, water quantity, and airflow before treating it with product. However, if your only option is using pesticides for mitigation, we recommend neem oil and insecticidal soaps as an effective alternative. Safer Brand makes products with little to no impact on the environment, people, or other critters. You can learn more and shop online here.

2. Create Habitat

Growing for strength and stability versus aesthetics means choosing plant species that will work in the specific conditions found in your yard and in Southern California. Landscaping with native plants will be one of the most important ways you can create and maintain habitat for wildlife in 2020. Climate appropriate plants like natives are already adapted to our environmental conditions, have low water requirements, and thrive in perennial sun. Native plants also foster wildlife by providing shelter and food for Los Angeles critters.

Here are five California native plants to introduce into your garden this year

  • California buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat

  • Purple sage, Salvia leucophylla
Salvia leucophylla, purple Sage
  • Coyote brush, Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea
Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea, Coyote brush. Depending on how you want to design your yard, coyote brush has several varieties to choose from including an upright shrub, local subspecies and a ground cover cultivar in the trade.
  • Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
Heteromeles arbutifolia, toyon.
  • Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia
Quercus agrifolia, Coast Live Oak tree

In addition to providing shelter and safe places for birds to roost, these beautiful flowering perennials attract pollinators like butterflies, bees, pollinating flies, moths and hummingbirds. Lastly, you might also want to consider incorporating a water feature into your yard; fountains or conventional bird baths are essential for keeping your backyard an attractive destination for wildlife — even insects need hydration!

If you are curious about bringing native plants into your garden, support your local native nursery and reach out to Katherine Pakradouni at [email protected] (she has graciously offered to answer reader questions via e-mail.)

3. Contribute Data

iNaturalist is a cell-phone friendly application described as “the Facebook for species identification.” Employing image-identification technology, photos uploaded through iNaturalist are compiled in an online platform accessed by scientists around the world. The platform is also instrumental in indexing our urban biodiversity for LASAN’s Biodiversity Team. Participate in this important wildlife documentation and contribute valuable information by downloading iNaturalist from your phone’s App Store.

As always, the Buzz will keep our readers informed of the project’s progress and participate in Biodiversity Project events. So stay tuned for more updates…and explore the links above for even more more ways to get involved.


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Calli Sara Goldstein
Calli Sara Goldstein
Calli Sara Goldstein is a contributing writer for the Buzz, specializing in sustainability, ecology, and agriculture.

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