Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ecological Benefits of Native Plants

Illinois native Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine)
Native plants are hot, hot, hot! So many people are buying and planting native plants because they know the benefits to the environment that native plants bring. Here are just a few.
  • Native plants need less water once established. Because they've grown here for thousands of years, they are well-adapted to our weather patterns. Native plants often have deep, extensive root systems that can obtain water when non-native plants can't. They will still need to be watered  well in the first year so that the root system can develop.
  • Plant a native plant garden and reduce weekly mowing. Enlarge your garden beds and include native plants, and you'll spend less time mowing and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.
  • Native plant gardens complement vegetable gardens by attracting necessary pollinators. Many of our native bees and butterflies are not adapted to feed from non-native plants. Plant natives near your vegetables to get those pollinators to create more food for you.
  • Native plants allow rainwater to soak deeper into the soil. Certain plants are called "clay busters" because they have a strong taproot that will break through tough clay to let rainwater infiltrate and replenish our aquifers.
  • Native plants create ecological diversity by attracting the beneficial bugs, birds, butterflies, and wildlife that are so often displaced by development.
  • You can find a native plant to solve almost any garden problems ("Nothing will grow in that wet spot!").
  • Native plants sequester carbon, keeping it from being released into the atmosphere where it worsens the greenhouse affect.
  • The breakdown and rebuilding of the long and plentiful roots of native plants contribute to healthier soil.
  • Native plants are sustainable, for all of the reasons above.
Plants are not just for decor, they are essential for all life. Choose your landscape plants as if life depends on it. Because it does!

Portions of this post are exerpted from a talk by Jim Kleinwachter of the Conservation Foundation of Naperville, IL.

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