Why Native Plants?
Native Plants Attract:
& Other Wildlife
🌻 Are beautiful
💧 Clean air & groundwater
🍓 Make food & medicine
🏡 Provide wildlife habitat
🦋 Increase biodiversity
🌱 Create fertile soil
⏰ Save time - less maintenance
💰 Save money on fertilizers & pesticides
Sautéed ostrich fern fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris) with violet (Viola sp.) and redbud flower (Cercis canadensis) garnish.
The Poster Child of Conservation
A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
The monarch butterfly is not alone in its plight. Many other wildlife populations are also in serious decline due to habitat loss. For example, nearly 3 billion of North American birds have been lost since 1970, which is nearly 30% of their original population. Insects are vanishing worldwide, also known as the windshield phenomenon. Habitat loss is caused by a variety of threats, ranging from pollution and invasive species to industrial agriculture and climate change. At today's unprecedented rate of environmental change, indigenous species struggle to adapt and compete for resources.
Native plants are the foundation of habitats and ecosystems. They make up the first chain of the food web, or trophic level, upon which every other living thing depends. Native flora and fauna co-evolved with each other over millennia, developing co-dependent relationships like the one between monarchs and milkweed. Insects, or “the little things that run the world,” would not exist without native plants. Without them, entire ecosystems would collapse.
Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems benefit all of us; they provide essential ecosystem services such as clean air, water, food, habitat, and fertile soil—all of which are necessary for our health and survival. Native plants build those ecosystem services from the ground up (literally!). They can even play a significant role in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon through green infrastructure and regenerative grazing practices.
So, what can you do? A great place to start is in your own backyard. What we choose to plant in our landscapes matters now more than ever. Create a habitat for wildlife with native plants!
From top to bottom: a monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) munching on milkweed; a mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) sunbathing; a bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax) about to jump; a gray tree frog (Dryophytes versicolor) on wild golden glow (Rudbeckia laciniata)
"It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference."
- Dr. Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home
A Globalized Ecosystem in the Anthropocene
In the blink of a geological eye, mankind developed the technology to travel across vast oceans. Prior to the 1400's, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans separated entire continents as if they were islands, each with their own delicately balanced ecosystems. In today's increasingly globalized world, we are still navigating the consequences of disrupting those ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. Which organisms will adapt quickly enough to survive? Will we maintain the rich biodiversity that we have enjoyed for thousands of years? Who are the winners? And who are the losers?
Gardeners can help decide.
Native Plants ✔️
Native plants are flora that:
are indigenous to a defined region
contribute to the local food web
have co-evolved with the organisms around them, resulting in complex ecological relationships
have adapted to regional environmental factors such as climate and geology
Non-Native Plants ➖
Previously known as "exotic" or "alien" plants, non-native plants are:
introduced from other continents such as Europe and Asia, typically by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally
significantly less able to contribute to the local food web
have not co-evolved with the organisms in their introduced environment
have not adapted to regional environmental factors
Invasive Plants ❌
The USDA classifies invasive plants as:
non-native to their introduced environment AND...
whose introduction causes harm to the economy, environment, or public health
Note: Only non-native plants can be classified as invasive; native plants that have an aggressive habit cannot, by definition, be labeled as invasive