“What do I plant?” you may be wondering as spring starts to set in. Maybe you are a master gardener, or maybe you are a novice trying to fill the time during quarantine. Nevertheless, putting plants in the ground is on your mind. What if I told you that choosing native plants over non-native ornamentals does more than create a beautiful landscape – it creates habitat for native wildlife, connects our backyards to bigger natural landscapes, and can help mitigate negative impacts of environmental change.
Native plants are the plants that occur naturally in the area, and they have evolved with the local environmental conditions and other plants and wildlife that occur in the area. Because of this, native plants often provide the necessary shelter and food needed for local wildlife while requiring little to no fertilizers, pesticides, or water after they are established. Having more native plants in your backyard increases wildlife habitat, reduces air pollution (no mowing required!), decreases erosion (choose plants with deep root systems over non-native grassy lawns), reduces chemicals and excess water use (easy maintenance!), and adds natural beauty to your very own backyard or patio!
Imagine a world where our backyards, patios, and shared spaces are full of native plants – creating a completely connected world full of beautiful plants and providing food and shelter for wildlife. Our landscapes don’t have to be “Developed” OR “Wild”. Our landscapes can be a mosaic of varying levels and sizes of native habitats and local ecosystems – but always with some habitat, connecting one place to the next.
If you want to know more about the benefits of native plants, the sites below are a good place to start.
Heather Hulton VanTassel, PhD is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Assistant Director of Science and Research. Museum staff, volunteers, and interns are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.