Native Plants and Natural Landscaping

If we care about the Earth we could heal it by removing lawns, by finding alternatives to lawns. You can do wonderful things on your own property to protect the environment. Each little island, each corridor will help bring back the butterflies and birds.” — Lorrie Otto

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What are Native Plants?

Many people are talking about native plants these days. Are you wondering what a native plant is? Are you wondering why they’re talking about native plants?

A NATIVE PLANT SPECIES IS ONE THAT OCCURS NATURALLY IN A PARTICULAR REGION, ECOSYSTEM AND/OR HABITAT AND WAS PRESENT PRIOR TO EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT.

Wild Ones advocates the selection of plants and seeds derived, insofar as possible, from local or regional sources at sites having the same or similar environmental conditions as the site of planting.  Such plant material is often termed the local ecotype.  Read more: Guidelines for selecting native plants

Plant material that originates in and is native to geographic regions are often referred to as ecoregions by scientists. It is better to use a source from your geographic region but outside your state than to use a source from a different geographic region inside your state. Such regions are often referred to as ecoregions by scientists. The ecoregions within the U.S. are best delineated by The USDA Forest Service’s US Ecoregions map.

Other Resources:

  • Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants, Edition 4  Newly revised to include a wider variety of native  landscaping ecoregions, this comprehensive guide book continues the tradition of “how to” information, along with a newly developed list of book resources. You can order a copy for just $10 (includes shipping and handling) at our Wild Ones Store. Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants is also available on-line at Environmental Protection Agency web site.

Why Native Landscapes?

wildOne_coverSo now that you know about native plants, let’s talk natural landscapes.

With the U.S. population nearing three hundred and six million, and growing by more than eight thousand every day, we have to get serious about habitat for our fellow creatures. See Gardening for Life by Doug Tallamy. Here Doug Tallamy talks specifically about pollinators and other insects and how important they are to our bird populations  Welcoming Wildlife Into the Garden with Native Plants .

Liz-Stanley

Photo by Liz Stanley

Are you a birder?
Doug Tallamy tells us his grad students are busy conducting a number of studies to quantify the percentage of caterpillars each bird species in the U.S feed their young. So far, the overall average is about 80% caterpillars. Some, particularly many of the warbles, feed 100% caterpillars, but ground foragers like catbirds have a higher percentage of detritivores and predators like crickets and spiders. Four percent of our birds don’t feed insects at all (finches, doves, crossbills). There is no such list for birds, but you can assume that if a plant makes lots of caterpillars, it is very important to birds. Check out Native Caterpillars Moths and Butterflies and Host Native Woodies (2 pages) Native Caterpillars Moths Butterflies & Host Native Woodies (1 page) from the March/April 2014 Journal to help with your tree selection.

Other Resources:

Reasons to Use Native Plants

Photo by Betty Hall

Photo by Betty Hall

Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, there are a lot of other reasons to use native plants and natural landscapes.

So why not use non-native plants?

How to use Native Plants

landscape_photoSo now that we’ve convinced you to try native plants and natural landscapes, let’s talk about how to go about doing it.

But that’s not all.  You’re going to have to manage the landscape as well.  Here again  Wild Ones Landscaping with Native Plants will help you learn how to get it done.

The Grapevine — by Wild Ones Journal editor, Maryann Whitman, is one of the Journal’s longest-running and most popular features. Read about what’s happening relative to native plants and biodiversity around the country.

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