I know, you hear it all the time, plant natives for the environment. But what does "native" mean and why should you be planting natives
WHAT DOES NATIVE MEAN?
Defining a native plant is a bit tricky because the fact is, nature is not static and thus, what may be native at one time, may no longer be considered a native plant. However, according to the U.S. Forest Service, a native plant of the United States is one that occurred naturally on the North American continent prior to European settlement. To put it simply, it is a plant that has been here for a very long time and was not brought over from some other country.
WHY SHOULD YOU PLANT NATIVES?
1. Native plants are unlikely to be invasive or overly competitive and thus are better at maintaining diversity in the ecosystem.
2. Due to the symbiotic relationships developed over thousands of years, native plants generally provide better food sources for native butterflies, birds, insects and other animals.
3. Because they have survived and adapted so long to the environmental conditions, native plants generally do not need pesticides and fertilizers to thrive.
4. By planting natives, you are helping to protect at risk species of plants, insects and other wildlife which depend on these native plants for survival.
5. Plantings natives is a simple way to protect biodiversity and be a steward of our natural heritage.
WHERE TO FIND NATIVE PLANTS?
Thankfully with the recent emphasis about the importance of native plants, there are many resources providing native plant lists. In addition to a number of native plant online nurseries, your local garden shops and growers are also doing a better job at pointing out native plants.
However, if you want to do more specific research on what native plants would be best in your region, check out the National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder as set forth in the link below. Based on zip code, it provides an easy tool ranking native plants by the number of butterfly and moth species that use them as host plants for caterpillars.
Last to note, while I always encourage the planting of natives, I also like to emphasize that you do not need to be a purest meaning, all your plants do not need to be natives. The best way to have a wildlife friendly garden is to have diversity and as such, it is okay to include some non-natives in your garden. Diversity of plant origin, as long as you don't introduce invasive species, is a strength, not a weakness.
Now that you know the what and why of native species, I hope you feel the urge to get out and plants some natives in your yard. Need help? Reach out for my design services and let's turn your garden into a wildlife haven.