- Leaves are the providers of fertility. That wonderful deep soil of the world's great forests was provided by millennia of fallen leaves, broken down by thousands of generations of all the tiny organisms that provide decomposition services and keep the planet from becoming one great reeking mass of corpses. Few of us live in cabins in forest clearings anymore, but that fertility can be shared with our own gardens, just by finding a place where those leaves can break down naturally.
- Leaves are habitat. Millions of small creatures live in leaf litter, including salamanders, toads, and baby bumblebee queens, who get only one shot at surviving the winter and establishing a new colony in the spring. If we freeze or landfill all the new queens, there will be no bumblebees for next year's pollination. In addition, many of the birds that so many people love to watch rummage through leaf litter in search of insects and spiders. Birds need protein, not just the seeds we put in our feeders when we remember to do so.
- Leaves are the nurseries of life. Entomologist Doug Tallamy notes in Bringing Nature Home that oaks alone support 534 species of lepidoptera (that's butterflies and moths, folks). Eggs are laid on leaves, overwinter, and in the spring hatch into caterpillars that sometimes become butterflies and sometimes become bird food. Baby chickadees are 100% dependent on caterpillars for food. When we trash our leaves, we are ending millions of lives before they even get to start.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Am I the only one?
Am I the only person distressed at the sight of bags of leaves lining nearly every street on trash day? I get that cleanliness is next to godliness and that wet leaves pose a hazard when walking, but--every leaf rounded up, encased in black plastic, and sent to a landfill? Do most people know what is in those bags?