Ohio Invasive Plants Council

Parade of Habitats Attendance Tops 1,000!

By Toni Stahl

When I got the idea of organizing a group garden tour last year, I wondered if anyone would come to see firsthand how sharing your yard with nature is fun and rewarding.  Over 1,000 people answered my question!

Five owners opened their yards to the public on July 14, 2007, which they had transformed into sanctuaries for people, songbirds, and butterflies in Columbus, Ohio.  Each owner had unique features to give people ideas of changes they could make in their own yards.  They created signs and information stations on their own to help visitors learn. 

All owners had removed invasive plants, added exotics that have value for wildlife, and added the Ohio native plants that native songbirds and butterflies have grown to depend on for survival.

Many attendees were shocked to learn that what they planted in their yard affects the wild.  Invasive plants escape gardens to form monocultures that choke out other plants wildlife needs.  Many of the Invasive plants put chemicals into the soil to destroy other plants.  In wetlands, toads suffer a 50% increase in mortality when raised in Purple Loosestrife instead of Cattails. 

One of the yards had Viburnum trilobum, a plant I had removed from my yard due to misidentification as American Cranberry Viburnum by the growers before it reached the dealers.  Upon inspecting the plants, we saw the difference in the petioles, one being American and the other European.  The owner was horrified.

After double-checking with several experts to confirm the identification, she noted that the European bush was spreading and the American was not.  She left it there during the tour to use for teaching visitors before removing it.  Removing invasives from your yard and anywhere in your community can help parks, nature preserves, and other natural areas control the spread.  See a list of the top 60 worst Invasives in Ohio on our web site and in the Resources section at

Free, do-it-yourself handouts were available at each site.  Visitors were very interested in learning how to care for their yards without chemicals.  If you missed this event, you can download handouts here.

A few of the tours' highlights were:

  • Beautiful, beneficial, non-invasive exotic and native plants

  • Frogs and toads hopping out when a ten-year old was asked if there was any wildlife in their man-made stream

  • Chimney swift babies chittering in a man-made, free-standing chimney swift tower

  • Multiple colors of butterflies (giant swallowtail, great-spangled fritillary to name a few)

  • Songbirds up close (fearless hummingbirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, and a Cooper's hawk strafing a garden at head height over the viewers)

Conservation ideas shared included the value of native plants, rain barrel watering systems, beautiful yards cared for without chemicals, the damage caused by invasive plants, rain garden, wetland, and composters to name a few.

These five yards are all National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitats, and some visitors were pleasantly surprised to discover that they already qualify for backyard habitat certification.  Many were inspired to certify online and order a sign to put up so others would know what they were doing and be inspired to make changes in their yards. 

You can register online or download the application at:

Feel free to contact me for more information about transforming your yard at naturescoop@backyardhabitat.info.  Please see our new web site at