Native Plants

Native Plants include herbaceous plants, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Natives evolved over a period of time sufficient to develop complex and essential relationships with pollinators, birds, and other wildlife species in a given ecological community. “These plants are part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds of thousands of years to a particular region or ecosystem.” - USDA. Native plants were established here long before the arrival of European colonists.

Why are Native Plants So Important?

Native plants provide nutrient-rich pollen and nectar to many native bee species and other pollinators. Native plants are important for their ability to support wildlife, especially our plant-eating insects (herbivores) that in turn provide protein-rich food for a large percentage of wildlife species. “Native plants provide food and shelter for 10-15 times more species of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife than non-native plants” - CT Audubon. Native plants, and the insects they support, are extremely important to the health of all ecosystems on which we humans depend. 

 

Pollination is critical to a plant’s survival. Plants evolved over time to attract different species of pollinators with their unique shapes, sizes and colors. These plants also satisfy a pollinator’s nutritional needs by providing the best source of pollen and nectar. Our native pollinators include many species of bees, butterflies, flower flies, beetles, hummingbirds, and moths. Moths (undervalued insects), are pollinators of the night-shift. Adults and their caterpillars are a hugely important food source for birds and other wildlife. And we cannot forget to mention our other beneficial insects that serve an important role in controlling many garden pests. Some are considered minor pollinators. These ‘beneficials’ are many and include lady beetles, lacewings and fireflies (link to list of beneficials). 

 

Butterfly caterpillars exemplify the important relationship between insects and native plants. All species of butterfly caterpillars require specific host (food) plants in order to grow and develop into adult butterflies. The Monarch butterfly caterpillar, for example, requires plants in the milkweed family (Asclepias).  Milkweeds are the only food the Monarch caterpillar can eat. Similarly, some native bees are ‘specialists’ and only collect pollen for their young from a single plant or plant species. Their emergence coincides with plant bloom and adults will only live for six to eight weeks. Providing plants for specialist bees also benefits bees that are ‘generalist’ pollinators who seek pollen from a wide-range of flowers. (link to specialists)

Best Things about Natives
Native Herbaceous Plants & Shrubs
  • Flourish without synthetic pesticides.  

  • Require less care since they are adapted to our local climate and soils.

  • Rarely need watering once established.

  • Provide food and cover for wildlife.

  • Contribute to biodiversity. 

  • Connect us to our unique natural surroundings.

Native Trees
  • Native trees keep our air and waterways clean and prevent soil erosion.  

  • Native trees sequester carbon more efficiently than non-natives.

 

Native Plants are beautiful!