How do you use native plants for environmental gain?
new developments, reduce the amount of disturbance to existing habitat
by using careful siting and design of buildings and other facilities.
native species into your existing landscape, using the following principles:
big, start small. Plan for the long term, but start with
something you can do easily in one season. Maybe you’d like
to eventually convert your whole yard to native species. Draw up a
plan for that goal, but choose one area, even one small garden bed
for your first effort. Trial and error with the first project will
help you learn without being overwhelmed. Phase in the whole project
native alternatives. Simply use native plants where you would
otherwise use non-natives. Start by using natives to replace dead
or dying non-native plants, or as a substitute for invasive non-natives.
the use of invasive species. What is native to one state or even
part of a state may not be native to another. Non-native or exotic
plants introduced from other parts of the world or other parts of
the country have degraded many natural ecosystems. Although many non-native
plants do not escape into the natural environment, it is difficult
for most of us to know or predict the risks of every ornamental plant.
Some of these introduced plants are invasive, meaning that there are
few or no naturally occurring measures such as insects or competitors
to control them. Invasive plants can spread rapidly and smother or
out-compete native vegetation. Ecosystems impacted by invasive, non-native
plants have a reduced ability to clean our air and water, stabilize
the soil, buffer floods, and provide for wildlife. Some native species,
in certain conditions, can also become aggressive spreaders in the
landscape, though their spread is usually somewhat more limited by
natural controls or site conditions than that of non-native aggressors.
To avoid outcompeting other desirable species, plants such as black-eyed
Susan (Rudbeckia species), plants in the mint family (such as Monarda
species) or others that spread by lateral roots (such as false dragonhead,
Physostegia virginiana) should be used sparingly or controlled in
gardens or meadows.
lawn or high maintenance areas by landscaping with native
plants. Add new landscaping beds and/or enlarge existing ones.
water quality by planting native species on slopes, along
water bodies, and along drainage ditches – anywhere
that the plants will help prevent erosion and pollution by stabilizing
the soil and slowing the flow of rainwater runoff. To collect runoff,
depressions can be created and planted with native plants suited to
temporary wet conditions. These “rain gardens” will capture
water and hold it temporarily, trap sediment, and remove pollutants
washing off of the surrounding land.
habitat value by using trees, shrubs, and perennials to create
layers rather than planting a single tree in the middle of
lawn. These layers will provide the structure and variety needed to
support different types of wildlife. Use plants that produce seeds,
nuts, berries, or nectar. Allow stems and seedheads of flowers and
grasses to remain standing throughout fall and winter to provide food
water into your design, as all animals need water year-round
to survive. Even a small dish of water (changed daily to prevent mosquito
growth) will provide for some birds and butterflies. Puddles, pools,
or a small pond can be a home for amphibians and aquatic insects.
A larger pond can provide for waterfowl such as ducks and geese, and
wading birds such as herons. Running or circulating water will attract
wildlife, stay cleaner, and prevent mosquitoes. Rock walls or piles,
stacked wood, or brush piles provide homes for insects, certain birds,
and small mammals. Fallen logs and leaf litter provide moist places
for salamanders, and the many organisms who recycle such organic matter
contribute nutrients to the soil. Dead tree trunks left standing benefit
cavity nesting wildlife such as woodpeckers.
naturalistic planting, or habitat restoration where possible. In some
settings it may be feasible to create a more naturalistic landscaping
project instead of a more formal one. Naturalistic landscaping uses
patterns found in nature – for example, several large patches
of single species or masses of color, rather than repeating or symmetrical
patterns – and allows some nature-driven changes to occur. Plants
multiply, and succession or gradual replacement of species may take
place, with less human intervention than in conventional landscaping.
And don’t forget to look beyond the landscaped area for more
comprehensive habitat enhancement, creation, or restoration. A property
located adjacent to natural areas, such as forests or woodlands, wetlands,
and meadows, is a good candidate for a habitat project. Expand existing
forest by planting trees and shrubs along the woods line, using native
species that grow in the area, and allow birds and wind to bring the
understory plants over time. Wet sites, areas with clay soils, or
drainage ditches can be converted to wetlands. An open piece of ground
or lawn can be planted as a meadow or grassland. Schools, homes, smaller
businesses as well as large corporate sites, municipalities, military
installations, recreational areas and other public lands can all include