Leave those leaves on the ground

Tuliptree leaf in fall (Photo by Bernt Solymar)

Tuliptree leaf in fall (Photo by Bernt Solymar)

November 9, 2018 | by Raechel Bonomo

As a child, I heard somewhere that if you catch a leaf as it falls from a tree, it’s good luck. So, naturally, I spent most autumns staring up at the huge trees in the conservation area behind my house, waiting patiently for a leaf to dance down from the canopy above. When I would spot one, I would sprint after it, often missing it as it twisted in the breeze and fell to the forest floor.

These leaves on the ground may not have seemed lucky to six-year-old me, but for backyard biodiversity, they are extremely valuable.

A bee pollinating a plant from the mint family (Photo by NCC)

A bee pollinating a plant from the mint family (Photo by NCC)

According to Dan Kraus, senior conservation biologist at the Nature Conservancy of Canada, property owners who haven’t raked and bagged their leaves already should leave them on the ground to support the biodiversity of species in their backyards. It can also save people time and energy from doing back-breaking yard work.

This small act of nature conservation can make a big difference for native pollinators, birds and other backyard wildlife.  

Layers of fallen leaves provide important habitat for many animals, such as toads, frogs and pollinators, who hibernate under the insulating layer of leaves. As the leaves break down, they also provide natural mulch, which helps fertilize the soil.

Many species of insects also need plants stalks or dead branches for hibernation. By completely cleaning up our gardens and yards, we may be removing important wintering habitats for native wildlife in our communities.

American goldfinch (Photo by Bill Hubick)

American goldfinch (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Migratory and resident birds will also be thankful. Fruits and seeds that remain on flowers and shrubs are a crucial food source and sustain many songbirds, such as goldfinches, jays and chickadees. Insects overwintering in our yards also provide an important food source for birds. Providing winter habitats for our native birds and insects is just as important as providing food and shelter during the spring and summer.

Today, instead of chasing leaves as they fall and keeping them in old coat pockets for my mom to find, I’m keeping them where they belong: on the ground. While my yard is painted yellow, orange and red as the trees go bare, I know I’m doing my small part for the wildlife that I share this space with.

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Bonomo is the manager, internal communications at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Read more about Raechel Bonomo.

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