What is a native plant?

“Native plants should be defined as those that have evolved and adapted to a specific location and have remained genetically unaltered by humans.”

Wasowski, Andy. “Provenance, defining our terms.(native plants).” The American Gardener 77.6 (Nov-Dec 1998): NA.

As native plants evolve and adapt to a specific location, so does the wildlife, creating a symbiotic relationship that forms healthy local ecosystems.

Among the many benefits of native plants are their adaptability to our climate and soil, their great performance in the garden without the need for pesticides or fertilizers, and, most importantly, the food and habitat they provide for our native pollinators, butterflies and birds.

Native landscaping includes a wide variety of plant species to support and provide nutrients to a diverse array of pollinators, birds and butterflies. Many native pollinators and butterflies are referred to as “diet specialists” and can only feed on or pollinate one or several host plants. For example, there is a growing awareness of the crisis of the monarch butterfly caused by the destruction of habitat that once flourished with milkweed, their native host plant. Like the monarch butterfly, thousands of butterflies, moths, insects and birds have a similar symbiotic relationship with the plants, trees and shrubs native to our area.

Pollinators, which include bees, wasps, insects, moths and butterflies, require a diverse array of plant species that bloom throughout the season. Plants that produce pollen and nectar early in the season, like violets and woodland wildflowers, need to be included alongside summer and fall blooming plants, like coneflowers, asters and goldenrods. The inclusion of trees and shrubs provides early pollen with their blooms, attractive leaves for caterpillars, and edible fruit in the fall for our native birds. A backyard designed with true natives provides a healthy, nutritious habitat to our birds, bees, and butterflies. And for us, we get to enjoy the beauty and watch it all unfold.

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