Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?
Why Plant Natives?
Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment. This makes them hardier to their particular climate conditions.
- Less water
- More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
- Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
- Don’t require as much fertilizer
- Don’t require as many pesticides
- Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
- Native plants have also developed to withstand their region’s climate like wind and sun.
How Invasive Species Affect the Environment
Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations, non-native plants compete with native plants and even affect the animals and insects.
- Need more water
- Need more fertilizer
- Need pesticides
- Take over native species, in essence choking them out
- Take away nutrients from natives
- Take sunlight from natives
- Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
- Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
- Run rampant on the uninhabited property
Yard Scenario 1
In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average, there may be about a dozen native insects present.
Yard Scenario 2
In a yard, with a grass lawn and all native trees, shrubs, and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.
Why Insects are Important to Native Plants
It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds, bats, fish, and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.
Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem
Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your home’s landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.
A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.
One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species.
If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.
We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit. This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.
To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality, this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.
We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa every year when we plant them.
Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.