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Top 5 Reasons to Landscape With Native Plants

Asclepias_tuberosa By H. Zell GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
With development comes destruction, and native plants are the biggest victims. Dozens of plant species disappear every day, become extinct, due to over-development and clear cutting of forests. People and businesses need places to live, and the places that remain are often less than desirable. Lots have to be built up, or paved over to make them useable, which necessitates removing all plant life. The clear cutting of building lots destroys millions of native plants yearly. While municipalities attempt to force homeowners and builders to replace a certain percentage of these trees and plants, it's only a drop in the bucket to what is lost. Many times these plants are replaced with non-native ornamentals and lawns that not only require more resources to maintain, but do not even come close to having the beneficial properties that native species have developed over thousands of years in the same environment.

What can we do, however small, to undo some of the damage that is done? We can use native plants in our landscaping. In the present economic and ecological climate, native plants have several advantages over non-native species. Landscaping with native plants can save our resources, help protect our environment, and save you money.

  1. Save Water because they are acclimated to the normal precipitation rates of the area. That is not to say that in periods of extreme drought you will not have to water them, but normally, you can forego the hoses and sprinklers.
  2. No Need for Fertilizer because they have learned to live and thrive on what nature gives them. As a matter of fact, some native plants will actually not survive heavy fertilization. The slash pine is one such plant. When left standing on building lots that are sodded and fertilized heavily, the slash pine will invariably die.
  3. More Insect Resistant so they rarely require chemical insecticides. The insects that native plants do attract are largely only attracted to that particular plant. This is usually because it is a larval plant, meaning they lay their eggs on it. One example of this is monarch butterflies and milkweed. Even when the milkweed is completely stripped of leaves by the monarch larvae, the plant recuperates quickly and becomes fuller and more beautiful, providing more flower nectar for the emerging butterflies, and more food for the next crop of larvae.
  4. More Disease Resistant. It is a well known fact that hybridization destroys the disease resistant properties of many plants. Native roses, for example, do not suffer from black spot or other fungal diseases common to their hybridized counterparts.
  5. Attract Wildlife and Pollinators. Native plants in the wild provide shelter and food for wildlife and insects. Without this symbiotic relationship, neither species would be able to survive. When native plants are used in the landscape, you will see an increase in butterflies, bees, and other beneficial species in your yard.

Large scale chemical fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide usage has been proven to be the major contributor to the declining quality of our potable groundwater. Scientific experts in Florida now admit that runoff of high nitrogen chemical fertilizers from lawns is the greatest contributor to the red tide algae that destroys millions of living ocean organisms every year. We all know what chemical spraying, disposal into rivers and streams, and releases from factory smokestacks are doing to our environment. It has recently been found that a chemical pesticide named Clothianidin may be largely responsible for colony collapse disorder in bees. We must stop the chemical pollution that is killing our planet.

Native plants were here long before man, and only man can save them. Research native plants for your area, and consider replacing less environmentally friendly species in your landscape. There are many beautiful and easy to grow choices available.