As you plan your landscape this spring (whether in a yard or in containers on a balcony or patio), take a moment to consider that your yard has the potential to have value even beyond its aesthetics. By incorporating native plants, you can create a landscape that is both beautiful and important to the butterflies, songbirds and other wildlife around us.
A native (indigenous) species is one that occurs in a particular region, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions (Kartesz and Morse 1997; Richards 1998). As the public becomes more concerned about the environment and interest grows in preserving it, it’s important to know that you have can choose to use native plants. This choice can make a big difference for both plants and animals that have been displaced by human development.
Most people know that butterflies start their life cycle (after hatching) as caterpillars. But have you considered what they eat at that stage? Rather than feeding on nectar like the adults, caterpillars must feed on plant material. Several native plant species are the select or even the only larval (caterpillar) host plant for some species of butterflies. This means that if the plants they need to eat aren’t around, they can’t reproduce. Also, many native plants provide superior nectar sources for adult butterflies (and other important pollinators), which in turn help to pollinate the crops we eat (among many other things). If you enjoy seeing beautiful butterflies or eating fruits and veggies, please consider incorporating native plants into your landscape.
Next, we approach the topic of hummingbirds. Many native plants are a great source of nectar and habitat for these beautiful, tiny birds. Planting some native plants can be a great way to attract them to your landscape. Zipping around your garden, they eat pesky bugs like mosquitoes, gnats, and fruit flies. If you would like to see more around, use native plants to help attract these amazing birds.
Tired of constantly watering your landscape? Do you struggle to keep it hydrated during the hottest months of the summer? Do you worry about where your drinking water will come from someday? If so, plant native plants. Once they’re established, many native plants require very little supplemental water and therefore will not squander the precious water that could otherwise be used for drinking. Native plants are often better suited to our local hydrologic situation and climate and can survive these conditions without assistance once established.
Many native plants are a great resource for holding soil in place because of their deep root system. This ability to help prevent soil erosion also means they help to protect water quality. Plant native plants to help prevent dust storms and dirty water.
If these reasons aren’t enough, there’s also the following:
- Native plants provide food and habitat for native wildlife.
- Native plants preserve our natural heritage.
- Native plants require little maintenance in the long run if properly planted and established.
- Small changes can make a big difference—you can incorporate many of these plants into your landscape incrementally.
If you are now ready to landscape with native plants, please note that Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will hold its annual Spring Plant Sale on April 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. We encourage you to stop by and pick up a few plants for your landscape. A Heard Museum Member Pre-Sale will be offered on April 13th from 4-7 p.m.
For nearly 29 years, veteran and novice gardeners alike have anticipated this rare opportunity to purchase plants from a huge selection of native plants, hard-to-find herbs and well-adapted plants at Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary’s annual Spring Plant Sale. Your tax-free purchases will also help to support the Heard—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing nature and people together. More information (including plant list) is available at www.heardmuseum.org/plantsale.