WHY PLANT NATIVES
Native plants are those that occur naturally in the region in which they evolved. Without them and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive. For example, research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgos, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. When it takes over 6,000 caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees, that is a significant difference.
Unfortunately, most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.
Landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the populations of birds and the insects they need to survive. The bottom line is that homeowners, landscapers, and local policy makers can benefit birds and other wildlife by simply selecting native plants when making their landscaping decisions.
Benefits of Native Plants:
Low maintenance – Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance.
Esthetics – Many native plants offer showy flowers, produce abundant fruits and seeds, and provide seasonal changes in colors from the pale greens of early spring to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn.
Healthy Places for People – Lawns are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. Native plants not only help wildlife, but create a healthier place for families.
Combating Climate Change – In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Conserving Water – Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water. This saves time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water.
Helping Wildlife – In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many butterflies and moths are dependent totally on very specific native plant species. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats, and they provide shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.