About Native Plants

What is a Native Plant?

A native plant is a plant species that occurs naturally in a particular region, or ecosystem. Plants that existed on the North American continent before European settlement are considered North American native plants. These indigenous plants have existed for centuries in the prairies, savannas, wetlands, and woodlands across this country.

Over very long periods of time, native plants have co-evolved with other members of their ecosystem – including other plants, insects, birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Together, they form a biological community of interdependent relationships.

Introduced and exotic plants, which make up so much of today's designed landscapes, are not evolved to interact with the existing ecosystems. Introduced and exotic plants can escape the garden and become "invasive" in the wild.  They can completely displace native species, disrupt the ecosystem food web, and effectively destroy the biodiversity within our ever-shrinking natural areas.

Why Native Plants Matter

Native plants are crucial to the ecological health of our landscapes, both designed and natural. They support life and increase biodiversity, and play an important role in soil and water conservation.

Research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgo trees, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. When it takes thousands of caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees, that is a significant difference.

Maintain and Preserve Biodiversity
In a balanced ecosystem, native plants are the foundation of a living community – of plants, insects, birds and mammals – all interacting to meet each others needs. Not simply preferred, many native plants are key requirements in the lifecycle of other species that depend upon them for survival. In settings both small and large, native plants support local and migrating birds, butterflies and moths, and pollinating insects of all kinds.

Clean Water, Healthy Soil and Environmental Solutions
Rain gardens, erosion control, detention basins, shoreline buffers - these are ways that native plants help alleviate some of our common environmental challenges. Native plants have deep root systems that help prevent soil erosion and help build healthier soil. The roots of native plants help mitigate flooding and absorb pollutants in water run off - protecting rivers, streams and lakes from harmful contaminants.

  • Deep root systems stabilize soil and protect from soil erosion on slopes of all kinds including stream banks and shorelines.
  • Shoreline plantings mitigate the chemicals in water run-off from lawns and other sources that clog lakes with algae and rob the water of oxygen.
  • Detention basins absorb excess rain water, reducing the impact of flooding and overflow in municipal water systems.
  • Rain Gardens capture excess runoff from houses and remove pollutants from street water, reducing the load and the toxins in the water system.

Reduce Water Use and Other Resources
Native plants are drought tolerant to the extent that they are planted where they can thrive without additional resources. To reduce the water used for landscaping, choose plants that will thrive in the soil conditions at hand. Let the soil type, soil conditions and light conditions be your guide for the best fit.

Natural landscaping with natives creates beautiful biodiverse spaces that reduce the need for mowing and eliminate the need for fertilization. Looking for ideas for that acre you're mowing but not using? One of our seed mixes could be the perfect solution.

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