You may have heard the term “native plants” before, but might not have thought much about it. So, what are they? Native plants are plants that are local to your area – but how do they differ from non-native plants? And what impact do they have on the local ecosystem?
Below, we’ve compiled a guide to native plants so you can understand why they are so important to the environment, and provide ways you can start planting these flowers in your very own garden.
What are native plants?
According to the National Wildlife Federation, a plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. The “human introduction” bit is important here, as most of the plants in your area were likely introduced by humans – though it may seem that certain plants have always been in your area, that doesn’t mean they are native to the area. For example, palm trees were introduced to Southern California by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century.
Where can I find out about the native plants in my area?
You can look up the native plants in your area by using this tool from the National Wildlife Federation. For instance, lupines are native to our hometown of Denver, CO, and sunflowers are native plants in both Los Angeles, California and Dallas, Texas!
Why are they important? How do they affect the larger ecosystem?
Think about it like this: you have a book club, and one day, a new book is introduced in a language you don’t speak. You can translate the book if necessary, but you lose a lot of meaning in the process and can still feel confused at the end. This is the type of confusion animals and insects have when non-native plants are introduced to the environment — they aren’t sure how to understand these plants and though they may get used to them, the plants aren’t as helpful as the native plants they are used to, which help keep their food web intact and help support biodiversity.
How can I help the native plants in my area?
Since native plants are accustomed to the levels of moisture, sunshine, and soil types in your area, it’s easier for you to grow them. This means less watering for you, and fewer toxic chemicals to force your plants to grow in an area they aren’t meant to be in. Since these plants are native to the area you’re in, they’ll be used to the rain schedule and need less irrigation management. However, climate change has had an effect on precipitation in many areas so intelligent water-saving irrigation (with a controller like Rachio 3) is a good backup to keep your plants healthy.
If there’s one thing we hope you take away from this, it’s to be more curious about the natural ecosystem around you. Though you may have lived in the same area your whole life, or think that you know the plants native to your area, you may be surprised to find that a majority of the plants are non-native. You can make it easier for yourself, and the environment, by choosing to grow native plants in your yard, and using a natural lawn treatment.