Watch: Rare garden plants bring rare wildlife

The purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) was one of the rare species that showed up in urban gardens. Credit: Andrew Cannizzaro

Gardens often attract wildlife—whether the gardeners like it or not. And while people often don’t think about wildlife in cities, it turns out that urban gardens often attract more rare birds and bees. That’s because urban gardens are more likely to have rarer plants, and those rare plants seem to attract more unusual visitors. In a study across California, researchers looked at 18 community gardens, taking into characteristics of the gardens—and the gardeners. They found htat over half the plants in urban gardens were rare—plants less likely to be found in urban environments and possibly at a higher risk of extinction. These gardens with rare plants also had rarer bees and birds associated with them, they found. “Rare status could be a sign that urban gardens are acting as an important conservation habitat for rare species in cities but could also foreshadow what’s to come for the future of the species,” said Theresa Ong, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth in a press release.

Read the study in Ecological Applications and watch an animation about the study below.