Plant native species


Jim Stasz @ USDA-NRSC PLANTS Database

Your local nursery or garden store carries a large variety of attractive plants that boast an array of desirable qualities: vibrant colors, bright green leaves, interesting shapes and textures, hardiness, evergreen growth, spectacular blooms. Most nursery plants, however, are exotic cultivars - plants that have been cultivated from species that grow naturally in other parts of the world to provide ornamental value to landscapes in North America.

What might not be immediately evident are the demands of exotic plants: high maintenance (pruning, shearing, etc), the potential to become invasive, greater dependence on water, and little or no wildlife value -- the food, shelter, and nesting sites provided by plants that have co-evolved with native wildlife. Native birds and wildlife have evolved to use, and often require, the resources offered by plants native to the same region.

But what exactly is a native plant? There are varying definitions. Because early settlers in North America brought with them a variety of native European plants, some consider the plants that were growing prior to the arrival of Europeans to be native. A broader definition that is widely accepted is that offered by the Federal Native Plant Committee: "a native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions."

Natives and You 

Land that is cleared for buildings or roads displaces countless organisms. Developments become further isolated from natural land by virtue of being landscaped with "reliable" cultivars, which do nothing to contribute to or restore environmental health. Using native plants closes the circle, helps restore a previously fragmented ecosystem, and offers a welcome place for birds and wildlife.

Today, people everywhere are discovering the benefits of "going native," and native plant sources are becoming more numerous. Natives, after all, offer many of the benefits of exotic cultivars without the exhaustive requirements. By establishing native plants in your yard, you will decrease water dependence, reduce the need for fertilizer and pest control, and create a renewed sense of place for birds, other wildlife, and you.



Downloadable Resources