Native plants are any plants, flowers, shrubs, or trees that grow in a specific area without human introduction. They may have been planted decades or centuries ago and still exist to this day, or they may have developed independently. Keep reading to discover why native plants matter, whether they be flowers, sedge, shrubs, or trees.
No matter how these plants got to a particular area, they have a significant role in the environment and should not be removed unless necessary. For example, the only good reason to remove a native tree from an environment is if it is dead and rotting because then it just becomes a sanctuary for insects and rodents.
Why Native Plants Matter
When we bought our new house in the spring, I realized that we had seven winged euonymus shrubs, or burning bushes, that are labeled invasive by the Missouri Department of Conservation. These shrubs are widely used in landscaping because of their appearance in the fall. Unfortunately, this shrub threatens a variety of habitats because it crowds out a variety of native plants. While the burning bush was an amazing thing for Moses to behold, it’s contemporary namesake wreaks havoc on local ecology. So, I removed all seven from our yard. We recently replaced five of them in the backyard with native black chokeberry bushes. These native bushes will provide both food and shelter for birds and insects. They’re supposed to do well in wetland type areas, and since our backyard becomes a swamp in the spring, they should do well here. If we hadn’t already had one, I would consider installing an outside tap because newly planted trees and shrubs depend on proper watering for up to three years after planting.
Animals and Insects Need These Plants
Speaking of birds and insects, one of the reasons native flowers and native plants are so important is that many animals and insects need them. There are insects, such as bees, that feed on pollen. Different bird species feed on the nectar from other plants.
- If certain insects and birds cannot eat, they would eventually die out, causing significant issues within the food chain. Not all animals are carnivores that eat meat. Deer, caterpillars, and crickets are all herbivores that feed exclusively on plants.
- What happens if these plants are not available to these animals? The animals run out of their food source and eventually die out. If these animals and insects die out, the other animals that eat them will lose their food source, too.
It becomes a complicated chain of events. When trees, flowers, shrubs, and assorted plants exist, they provide that much-needed food source to animals and keep the food chain going.
When a non-native plants take the place of a native plant, the wildlife and insects do not receive the nutrients they need to survive.
Native Plants Keep the Environment in Better Condition
A native tree or native plant keeps the environment in far better condition. How is that possible? Unlike non-native plants, these plants do not need fertilizer to thrive. They will often grow tall and healthy on their own.
While the occasional pesticides may need to be used to preserve these plants’ condition, there is no need to use a large number of pesticides, which means fewer toxic chemicals are getting dispersed into the air.
If there are fewer chemicals in the air, the air quality will start to improve drastically. Fresher, cleaner air is essential for both animals and humans. When air quality is low, it can trigger asthmatic reactions and other breathing problems for those in the area.
The Native Plants Provide More Shelter
Non-domesticated animals, such as deer, will commonly use shrubs, trees, and large plants for shelter from the elements. Besides having a shelter to protect them from the heat, snow, and rain, the shelter can keep them safe from certain predators that might be on the hunt for them. Having the shelter allows these animals to stay safe.
Various native plants play such an essential role in the environment. Unlike non-native plants, they require much less effort to thrive. These plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees have a lot to offer because they provide food to different animals and insects while improving air quality. It is crucial to keep these plants alive instead of getting rid of them because of all the good they can do for everyone and everything around them.
How to Find Native Plants in Your Area
Finding native plants in your area doesn’t have to be difficult. Grow Native is one resource in my area that is very informative. I’ve also used the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, Missouri Department of Conservation, Audobon, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Plant Finder to research grow conditions for the plants native to my area. I also joined a couple of groups on Facebook that are dedicated to promoting native plants in our region, including:
One thing that I have discovered through the Facebook groups is that fellow native plant lovers are almost always eager to share their knowledge, and occasionally their plants or seeds, to encourage others to plant native.
Since we’re doing what we can to attract the many local species of songbirds. as well as important pollinators, to our yard, planting native plants is something I’ve become keenly aware of. That isn’t to say we won’t ever use a cultivar (my husband is fond of the begonia’s by the front door), we will do what we can to give nature a helping hand. We’ve planted a butterfly garden as well as native shrubbery. Our non-native ornamental cherry tree out front is in the process of dying, so when it’s time to replace it, we’ll plant something native.
Native Plants We’ve Added
Since owning our home, we’ve added the following native plants, native trees, native bushes, and native flowers to our yard:
- Black Chokeberry Bushes (Aronia melanocarpa)
- Redbud Seedling (Cercis canadensis) — this one didn’t survive my son mowing it.
- Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
- Star Tickseed (Coreopsis pubescens)
- Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
- Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) (also called Butterfly Weed)
- Late Boneset (Eupatorium serotinum)
- Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata)
- Cardinal Plant (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
- Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis)
- Southern Blue Flag Iris (Iris Virginica)
- Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)
- Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
- Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
- False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Roundleaf Ragwort (Packera obovata)
I know I’m missing a few, so I’ll add them when I find my written list. LOL
It gives me such joy to walk around our native plant areas and see pollinators. I’m not able to reforest an acre, or plant a meadow of native wildflowers, but I’m doing what I can on our little plot of land to make sure that native insects and birds are welcome in our yard.