What’s the big deal about native plants? Why is it important to make sure that we are using native plants in our landscapes at home, in our parks and community spaces, on our roadsides?
“As open space disappears, it becomes increasingly necessary to look at our own landscapes as a refuge for biodiversity. Native organisms including plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, and insects create an intricate web of life. This is a wonderful natural orchestration with each species’ life cycle highly dependent on the others.
For example: Spring wild flowers are pollinated by and provide nectar to tiny flies. These flies become food for early spring birds. The timing is orchestrated perfectly. It is not a coincidence that the local native plants have seeds and berries ready just when the birds need them. Bird droppings are the best way to get their seed dispersed. Plants and animals that have evolved together depend upon each other for survival.
Unfortunately, native plants, a vital part of the natural web of life, are being lost at an alarming rate. Removing a certain native plant from the landscape will likely remove the insect that feeds on that plant, which in turn may eradicate the bird that feeds on that insect. And this is just a simplified example.
The loss of a species can quickly escalate to affect an entire ecosystem. To paraphrase Paul Ehrlich, author of Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species, removing native species from an ecosystem is like taking rivets out of an airplane wing; it is impossible to know which one will be the last one that was holding the whole thing together.
There are real and practical pay-offs to encouraging a more biologically diverse yard.
- Healthy, balanced ecosystems clean our water and our air.
- Pollinators are vital to food production.
There are also other profound reasons for using native plants in our yards.
Aesthetically and spiritually, native plants enhance our sense of place. Native plants are one of the most visible elements in the local landscape. They are part of what makes a region unique. Learning and growing native plants promotes a deeper understanding and respect for the land.
PLEASE ALSO CHECK OUT: INCREASING THE USE OF VIRGINIA’S NATIVE PLANTS
[ Reprinted and edited with the permission of the author, Kathryn Hanratty and the Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio ]