Wildlife in the mediterranean garden

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« on: February 11, 2016, 09:34:31 AM »
We have a new feature on the MGS website about wildlife gardening "Wildlife gardening in a mediterranean climate" which I hope you'll enjoy. I've reused many of the photos posted by our Forum members to illustrate the article by Melissa Hamilton in the latest issue of The Mediterranean Garden and other older but still very relevant articles.
Melissa has investigated the subject of planting natives for wildlife in her area (Umbria in Italy) and she writes:
"One thought I had is whether we could ... tap into the knowledge and experience of all of the MGS members.  I'm thinking that they could submit plants for their area that they know (or have observed) are good for insects/birds etc.  They could let us know the plant, its origin, and what wildlife it's good for.  We could perhaps organise the information into zones so members could check their zone for planting suggestions."
The MGS Forum is the obvious place for this conversation so please post your ideas for good plants to attract wildlife and we'll ise them to add more information to the website page.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2016, 10:39:52 AM by Alisdair »
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

Umbrian

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2016, 11:24:56 AM »
Interesting article Melissa- I have noted, on this forum I think, that birds in the country seem reluctant to feed on provided food. When we moved to Italy I hung up strips of pork rind, carefully shelled nuts and even a half coconut in an attempt to encourage the numerous tits that I saw flitting amongst the trees. All to no avail, they studiously ignored them. Only a Robin came to peck at some crumbs I put out and,( as they are wont to do, followed me about when I was working in order to benefit from any worms I uncovered.) Since acquiring a small house in town with a decent garden I have been be amazed by how much more "urbanised" the birds are.
Tits, sparrows, starlings all come to feed on my improvised bird table and blackbirds abound -one became so used to my daily habit of putting fruit peelings and bacon fat out after breakfast that it would wait for me and, if I was a little late, come to the window ledge.
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

Umbrian

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2016, 07:20:25 AM »
Further to my previous post I would like to add a bit about what we plant in our gardens hoping to generate some discussion perhaps. When people ask me for help and advice as to what to plant in their gardens ( often newcomers to gardening in a Mediterranean climate but not always) I always refer them to the indigenous plants of the area pointing out that they will inevitably prove to be the easiest subjects. One plant that grows prolifically in our countryside is Spartium junceum - in the late spring and early summer their perfume invades the air making any car journey a pleasure. The flowers are bright and cheery and produced over a long period, the plant itself easy to grow tolerating most conditions and its form pleasingly architectural if kept under control with a yearly trim. Most people turn their noses up however when I mention it - " oh but that's a wild plant" they say. All plants are wild somewhere, or at least started off as wild plants. All plants have a role to play in the ecosystems of the world of which we are a part. Perhaps us gardeners are not quite the upholders of the " natural world" as we often like to think we are - for example when we try to save plants from extinction....
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

Joanna Savage

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2016, 09:25:41 AM »
Hello Fleur, thanks for the labour of putting together environmentally significant MGS articles. I very much enjoyed Melissa's account of her garden.
Yesterday, on Alisdair's FB page about Crocus there is a comment by Peter Riefenthaler. It doesn't seem to be much about Crocus, more about sustainable gardening. I followed his comment to search for the Di Rienzo garden and find that there is a description of it in MGS Balearic Islands Group in March 2011. The account may have some more info for your web page.
Incidentally, while doing that searching I have come across a magazine, Farming Matters, free to download from a group in the Netherlands. It seems to be about tropical small sustainable gardens, but the general principles would surely apply to Mediterranean gardens. I haven't read it yet, sadly real life chores intervened, but I can't wait to get my teeth into it.

Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2016, 09:29:42 AM »
I've just (rather belatedly) joined the forum, and am catching up with this thread.  I'm very interested by Umbrian's experiences with feeding birds.  We notice that European birds generally seem much pickier than those in the tropics when it comes to food, I think because there are far fewer fruit eaters, and a lot of the seed and insect eaters must be quite picky.  That said we have 3 kinds of tits and sparrows that eat the seeds in our feeders.  I will be quite keen to try some Spartium junceum in the garden this year.  Locals near us think our whole garden is "weeds", particularly the cistus, because they're local plants.  But interestingly many of them like the garden and show their Italian friends.  Our old neighbour loves the nigella that come up in spring (from seeds from the MGS seed exchange).  She remembers them being widespread in the area when she was a girl, but you hardly see them now.  I'm particularly interested in any thoughts people have for local plants which have fruit/berries in autumn prior to the main bird migration.

Umbrian

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2016, 02:34:16 PM »
Not very knowledgeable about bird migrations Melissa - if you can enlighten me I may be able to come up with some plants that have fruit/ berries at the appropriate time.
I was interested in your comments about Nigella. I love this plant and brought seed from the UK when we moved here. One year I found the wild Nigella growing in one of the wilder parts of the garden I was creating and was struck by its beauty - then I was afraid I might lose it to the enthusiastic self seeding cultivated one. This however has not happened and I still enjoy both having kept the wilder part still wild.
Back to birds- our house in the country is quite isolated and so I presume the birds that live all around it are accustomed to foraging and surviving whereas those who find themselves born into a more urban situation have inherited the habits of their parents and feed wherever they can and with less fear of humans.
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

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JTh

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2016, 03:35:40 PM »
We are in a semi-wild/rural area, few people, but full of birds. They are not used to being fed, but they seem to appreciate what we give them, usually bread crumbs, and a large ceramic tray filled with water is very a popular meeting place for both small and slightly larger birds, like doves.

There are many wild bushes which I’m happy to see are making a good cover along our fence in Halkidiki. The locals don't understand why we want keep these, but I have managed to ignore their remarks. One of these is Phillyrea latifolia, which I think is a very nice bush, evergreen and with lots of small, blue berries in the autumn (lasting until spring). I read that:
P. latifolia fruits were a major component in the diet of principal seed dispersers (Sylvia atricapilla= Eurasian blackcap and Erithacus rubecula=robin) that depended almost exclusively on them for food late in the season’, ref. http://ebd10.ebd.csic.es/mywork/abstr/ecolmonogr94.html.

Another candidate here is the pistacia; they produce plenty of seeds which are eaten and dispersed by birds, and ‘a valuable resource because of the scarcity of food in some important times of year, as the time of breeding, migration, or the dry season’, according to Wikipedia.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2016, 03:37:37 PM »
Replying to Joanna - I've made enquiries and unfortunately Laura Di Rienzo has now sold her house and garden and the new owners have 'tidied it up' and constructed a huge surrounding wall. On this last subject, when we did our fence I left tortoise-sized holes at ground level all around and it does seem to have worked, we have a variable population of tortoises of all sizes so I'm guessing that they're intelligent enough to find the holes and remember where they are to get out again. Unlike a litter of puppies who made it through but then cried for mummy pathetically until I pushed them back out again.
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

Umbrian

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2016, 08:03:49 AM »
Have to agree Jorun that birds seem to appreciate water wherever they find it and will happily visit any receptacles wherever they are placed in the garden. In our town garden they queue up on the wall to take their turn.
Another interesting point - I used always to cut Colin's hair and in the early spring would hang it outside in an old net that some vegetables are sold in. It was lovely to see the birds coming to collect it. Now, (Colin not having much hair left to cut!) I now cut up lengths of wool and tie them on trees and they are equally popular.
On finding old nests in the garden when pruning etc it is always fascinating to see what has been used - not so happy when I find plastic though.....
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2016, 12:50:36 AM »
Jorun thanks for both of those plant suggestions.  I have had Phillyrea latifolia on my list for a while to plant along our bank, so this should spur me on to plant some.  Umbrian, I am working on an article on gardens and bird migration, which I hope to finish after my "spring migration" back to Italy (I have a very good reference book on bird migration at home there).  I think that September would be the key month for many of the European birds looking for autumn fruit, with most migratory birds gone by mid October.  Some academic research on bird feeders indicates that, not only as you suggest that urban birds are better at using novel food sources, but because the density of feeders is higher birds are more likely to find them.  Rural birds will not want to invest a lot of energy in scouting over larger distances between feeders.  So you would have a much smaller population (being those close to you) that will utilise the feeders in a rural environment.  And I too put my hair out for the birds - we used to put wool out when we were in Britain, but I find the birds quite like my hair.  Unfortunately so do the spiders around the house ...

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MikeHardman

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2016, 11:15:45 PM »
Fleur,
Many thanks for that compendium of articles on wildlife gardening.

Melissa,
Thanks for your article, and welcome.

I was going to write some personal comments here, but they turned into a small article, which I shall run by the editors of The Mediterranean Garden...

Some other comments, speaking primarily as a butterfly and moth man...
We can make efforts to plant and grow so as to encourage wildlife, but populations may fluctuate independently of our efforts. ...Just to be aware.

For instance, two years ago, we had a very good year for African monarch butterflies, especially at a particular spot near Polis (western Cyprus). They were there because their larval foodplant was abundant there (it is generally scarce). But their numbers are generally reflective of how the species is faring in Africa and other areas visited during migration. On this occasion, however, it seems numbers had been enhanced because of ceremonial releases of the butterflies (raised in Spain) at weddings.

Painted ladies provide other observations. Two years ago, there was a mass migration - thousands of them streaming across the countryside in many parts of Cyprus, oblivious of obstacles, for several days. At the same time, many individuals were going about their usual business of flitting around Lantana bushes all day long, without joining-in the migration. The migrants were on the move because of population build-up to the south. This year, in the last couple of weeks, painted lady numbers have been increasing, but with much less evidence of the migratory streams. Most of the individuals seem to remain in one area. At Latchi, there is a stretch of low Lantana camara hedge between coast road and cycleway; it is covered with clouds of painted ladies; easily over 1,000. I've never seen so many. The Lantana hedge is the same as every year.

Two morals from these stories:
- if you plant favourably for butterflies and don't see many, it may not be your fault (don't be disheartened)
- if you get good numbers of butterflies, it may just be luck (but enjoy anyway!)

Mike
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

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John J

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2016, 09:19:52 AM »
Mike, your mention of Monarch butterflies reminded me that a couple of weeks ago a friend who lives in the next village showed me a seed pod from her young Ceiba speciosa (syn Chorisia speciosa) tree. It was the first one it had produced. She was under the impression that in their native South America they are pollinated by Monarch butterflies and was asking if I thought it might have been pollinated by an African Monarch here in Cyprus. I couldn't comment on this as I hadn't checked. These trees are not common in Cyprus and for a butterfly to have tracked down a lone specimen would seem to have been quite a feat, but who knows. Any thoughts on the feasibility?
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

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MikeHardman

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2016, 09:29:42 PM »
Interesting observation and thought. Thanks for passing it along, John.


Information
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As recently as 2014,  Pasta, La Mantia and Badalamenti wrote an interesting paper on Ceiba speciosa:
"A casual alien plant new to Mediterranean Europe: Ceiba speciosa
(Malvaceae) in the suburban area of Palermo (NW Sicily, Italy)"
http://www.rjb.csic.es/jardinbotanico/ficheros/documentos/pdf/anales/2014/71_2_e010.pdf

It mentions butterflies amongst other possible pollinators, but not monarchs (Danaus sp.), though they are commonly mentioned in other references.
Other works cite bats, birds and bees as major pollinators of C. speciosa and/or other species of C.
Bees are certainly pollinators (eg. photos here - http://www.plantcreations.com/chorisia_speciosa.htm).
In the native range of C. pentandra, bats are cited as key pollinators
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=35469.
That paper also explains that that species is rather variable in its self-fertility, and tends not to set seed unless other trees are available for cross-pollination.

Two particular points:
- just because a monarch (or other vector) visits a flower, that does not mean it is a successful pollinator
- silk floss trees bloom in late winter to early spring - whereas monarchs visit Cyprus mainly in the autumn (though records span March to December) - not much overlap


My opinion
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I suspect, just on the basis of probability, that the Ceiba seed pod did not arise from pollination by an African monarch (Danaus chrysippus).  Other pollinator(s) are more likely.
If your friend's tree is a lone specimen, it may never set much seed even if visited by suitable pollinators (but it could still flower well)

Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

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John J

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2016, 04:36:01 AM »
Mike, thanks for that detailed and very interesting response. I'll pass the info along.
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

Joanna Savage

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Re: Wildlife in the mediterranean garden
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2016, 04:45:36 AM »
With regard to Mike's point about Insect Visitors  not necessarily being Pollinators. Many years ago I studied some Entomology in an Agriculture course and I still remember the advice that the presence of an insect on a plant does not necessarily mean the plant will be harmed. We were always to consider that the insect might be 'just visiting'.