The RHS has published a list of the most beneficial garden organisms to celebrate and encourage biodiversity.
They aim to highlight how bringing more species into our outdoor spaces can bring benefits to our environment, and enthuse people to encourage more wildlife into their gardens.
RHS Plant Pathologist, Liz Beal, stated: “We have seen a huge increase in gardeners wanting to find out more about the organisms they can encourage into their garden to naturally ward off the species that can be more damaging to their plants… A healthy garden ecosystem is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and we hope this list will help celebrate some of the friendly garden species that bring a whole host of benefits to our plots and the wider environment.”
Topping the list are lichens, which can be found growing on trees or shrubs, and are often associated with good air quality. They carry out photosynthesis to capture atmospheric carbon, and certain lichens also absorb atmospheric nitrogen compounds, which are common pollutants.
Lichens regulate water and humidity levels by soaking up moisture during wet weather and slowly releasing it as water vapour.
Lichens also provide food for other garden wildlife, and create habitats by providing shelter for invertebrates and nesting materials for birds and mammals.
Pollinators and Ladybirds
It will come as no surprise to gardeners that pollinators and ladybirds are also at the top of this list.
Ladybirds primarily eat aphids. A single ladybird can eat up to 50 aphids a day, or up to 5000 in a lifetime!
Rose Chafer Beetle
This bright metallic green beetle appears from May onwards, and its larvae feed on dead and decaying matter, assisting with composting in the garden. Despite its intimidating name, this eye-catching beetle should be welcomed!
Social Wasps and Hoverflies
Social wasps are vital garden predators. They feed on everything from caterpillars to green flies. Hoverflies mimic wasps and are also vital pollinators – but have no sting! The larvae of many hoverfly species predate blackfly and other aphids.
Beneficial fungi appear in multiple slots in the RHS’s top 10, emphasising a growing interest in fungi and their role in ecosystems.
Gardeners often mistake Sulphur Tuft Fungi and Inkcap Mushrooms for the damaging tree disease Honey Fungus, as they appear in similar groups in the autumn. However, these beneficial species help to recycle dead wood and support plant health.
They release micronutrients and humic acid, which enriches the soil and helps to retain moisture. The presence of fungal mycelium in soil also improves its structure.
By adding woody mulch or retaining pruning cuttings from healthy trees, gardeners can encourage beneficial fungi in their gardens.
Slime moulds are single-celled organisms which fuse together to create a supergroup which moves as a unit in search of food.
These moulds eat the bacteria that decomposes plant material. Invertebrates such as nematodes, in turn, eat the slime moulds, contributing to the nutrient cycling in a garden.