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GOING WILD WITH NATIVES: Homegrown National Parks

By Susan Lewitt, for Let's Talk plants! December 2023.

Homegrown National Parks

If you are transitioning to or have a native landscape, please consider listing your property as a Homegrown National Park. Even if you are not considering this, please read on.

“These so-called weedy native plants support much of the animal diversity in North America and our war against them in residential and commercial landscapes along roadsides and on edges of croplands has been the primary cause of the decline of butterflies such as the monarch, thousands of species of native bees (many of which are stingless) and countless other insects that no one is monitoring” (Nature's Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy, page 173.)

Imagine the harmony of a native landscape right in your own Homegrown National Park! CNPS Garden Tour 2015. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

People who don’t consider native plants for their landscaping have me stumped. CNPS Garden Tour 2015, photo by Susan Lewitt.

If we built a multistory building with the same thoughts of landscaping aesthetics, I might imagine the following occurring: A company called Exotica International built the world’s most beautiful building. It had flowing curves and eye-catching colors. It was dazzling. It was bold. It was breathtaking. This company, in building this gorgeous structure, decided to leave out elements that had no aesthetic value. The day the building was finished, people came to see it and were mesmerized until they tried to enter the building. There were no doors. The builder considered them obnoxious. A few people managed to crawl in through a window but could not get very far because there were no stairs, or elevators. The builder also considered these eye sores. Other things that fell short of the builder’s beauty expectations were restrooms and any sort of plumbing. The builder was greatly insulted when the owner of the property fired him and hired a new builder, Native Sustainer, who was able to correct the deficiencies. This new builder kept the beauty of the building but made it functional as well. The builder added doors, stairs, elevators, even restrooms and other necessities. Native Sustainer even added solar panels which partially shaded a beautiful rooftop native garden. Some of the cost was covered by the Inflation Reduction Act. Okay, now back to reality...

Rooftop garden with solar panels. This photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY.

Now if you have a garden with only exotic plants that, in a way, is like a building, missing essential parts. Native plants support the food web and are essential elements to our community because they support biodiversity and human health.

Let’s bridge the gaps between natural areas and support community biodiversity with native plants in our landscaping. CNPS Garden Tour 2015. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

With a native plant garden, you will see more native birds, native butterflies and native pollinators visiting your garden. Your garden will make a vital contribution to the health of your community. These native species are a part of an essential food web that allows for biodiversity, and at the base of that food web, are native plants.

Come sit in a native garden and become charmed. Just imagine forest bathing in your own native garden. CNPS Native Garden Tour 2015. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

Native Plants are like a fountain of delight. CNPS Garden Tour 2015. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

The greener that state, the more areas of Homegrown National Parks there are. Diagram courtesy of Homegrown National Parks, permission granted by Douglas Tallamy.

Now about Homegrown National Parks: “HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK® is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks.” The mission is “TO REGENERATE BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION because every human being on this planet needs diverse highly productive ecosystems to survive.” If many individual landowners, land managers, farmers, and anyone who has the space to grow plants, rids their properties of invasive species and replaces them with native plants, this goal could be met. This could be a record-breaking move for conservation with a goal of 20 million acres or about half of the privately owned green lawn space. If we do this quickly, we may avoid losing many species which are currently threatened or endangered, species that we depend on “to produce the oxygen, clean water, flood control, pollination, pest control, carbon storage, etc.” “Doug’s message is a SOLUTION BASED ACTION - small efforts by many people. Together we will create new ecological networks that will enlarge populations of plants and animals enabling them to weather normal population fluctuations indefinitely.” (

There is an instructional video that tells you how to register. Your personal information is not shared. There are resources and a help button. You may register your property no matter what stage your native garden stage has reached, whether it is a planned native garden, newly planted natives or a full yard of well-established natives. Please also remember to take pictures along the way. And yes, I have registered my property, and I am gradually adding listed plantings.

Here are Douglas Tallamy’s ten steps that put you on the right path to your own Homegrown National Park:

1. If you have a lawn reduce it.

2. Rid your property of invasive species, (especially Argentine ants who will be glad to do in your native plants).

3. Include keystone genera to support the native food web.

4. Use many native species and use several of each one.

5. Use plants that attract specialist pollinators.

6. Get your neighbors interested and participating to help increase the area helping biodiversity.

7. Your hardscaping may be designed to support conservation by avoiding nighttime light pollution and areas that might trap wildlife.

8. Make sure your caterpillars have a good place to form their chrysalises

9. Avoid sprays and fertilizers.

10. Pass this information on to your neighborhood civic association or HOA.

This is a synopsis of chapter 11 from Natures Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy.

If we all make a contribution to this goal, we can succeed and help bridge the gaps left by the boundless urban, rural, industrial and commercial spaces between the National Parks. We can be the links. We can be the wildlife corridors. We can help stabilize populations of many critical species. To succeed, the best time to start is 20 years ago, but since we don’t have a time machine, all we can do is start now, to act quickly and work on the solution of saving biodiversity and human health.

Resources for more information:

“We Can Do This! One person at a Time, Regenerate Biodiversity, Plant Native, No experience necessary”. Homegrown National Park,

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. Timber Paperback, Portland, Oregon 2009

Nature’s Best Hope, A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Own Backyard by Douglas W. Tallamy, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2019

Nature’s Best Hope, How You Can Save the World in Your Own Backyard, Young Readers Edition by Douglas W. Tallamy, adapted by Sarah L. Thompson, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2023


Susan Lewitt is a member of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), participating in their Native Gardening Committee, and their Conservation Committee.

If you enjoyed reading this article, consider joining (or renewing your membership with) the San Diego Horticultural Society.
SD Horticulture



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