Over the past century, urbanization has transformed landscapes into fragmented areas with bright green lawns and ornamental plants. The idea of having a highly manicured lawn has become the dominant landscape throughout cities across the globe. Unfortunately, these landscapes are unable to provide a functional ecosystem that can support local wildlife. So how do we fix this? Introducing Native plants back into the environment.
Why Native Plants? Native plants are a crucial factor in a healthy ecosystem. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. Native plants are able to form symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore can offer the most sustainable habitat. Starting at the bottom of the food web, these plants can provide meals for creatures, which then provide meals for creatures on the next ring of the web, such as birds and amphibians that visit our yards.
When Native plants are planted in areas that match their growing requirements, they are able to encourage a beneficial environment for wildlife. This means that they will also thrive in soils, moisture, and weather within the region. Because they are able to thrive in their environments they can assist in maintaining healthy soil, since their root systems can grow deep which can further support rain management.
Unlike exotic plants, that have evolved in other parts of the world, they require supplemental watering and pest management that require toxic chemicals. These plants can escape into the wild, like blackberry, and become invasive and destroy natural habitats.
Most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are species from other countries. These exotic plants not only can sever the food chain but because they have no predators they can outcompete native species, becoming invasive and degrading the habitat remaining in natural areas.
Here are seven reasons why you should add Native plants to your yard:
Native plants help you use fewer fertilizers – In order to encourage the growth of lawns, fertilizers are applied. They contain high amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients can run off into lakes and rivers creating excess algae growth, which depletes oxygen from our waters and can harm aquatic life.
Native plants help you use fewer pesticides – Pesticides are used to control unwanted plants, such as “weeds”. Lawns usually use pesticides as a way to keep the design presentable. Native plants don’t require pesticides because they have acquired a built-in natural defence after being habituated for years.
Native plants help you use less water – Lawns require significant amounts of water to thrive, in urban environments lawn irrigation uses up a significant amount of water consumption. Native plants increase the soil capacity, due to their deep root systems which can significantly reduce water runoff.
Native plants help you keep the air around you cleaner – Because native plants require little to no maintenance, gas-powered tools like lawnmowers don’t need to be used. However, lawns need to be mowed regularly which adds to air pollution from the gasoline.
Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife and support pollinators – Native plants attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources.
Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage – Natural landscaping provides the opportunity to reestablish diver native plants, which also invites birds and butterflies back into the region.
Native plants have been shown to save money in many different ways – Instead of spending money to remove invasive species, native plants are easy to maintain and do not require the same amount of attention and resources that invasive species do.
Native plants are low maintenance – They are well adapted to their local environment and don’t require extra nutrients or watering.
These are just a few reminders as to why native plants are an integral part of our urban ecosystem. Here is another reminder as well, “Restoring native plant habitats is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.”