Gardeners are becoming more and more aware of the importance of incorporating local plants into their gardens. Working with nature instead of against it helps promote biodiversity while supporting the local wildlife and ecosystem. A new term called “naturescaping” popped up as people started landscaping with native plants instead of more popular and exotic plants found in nurseries. Local plants are essential for your garden to protect the ecosystem where you live; it all starts with the plants and works its way up to the mammals.
What is a “Local Plant?”
Local plants are the flora indigenous to where you live. While the plants you see at the nursery may be native to North America, the plants you would find naturally in Southern California are going to be different than the ones found in Maine or New York. Native plants are often called “weeds” or are replaced in the garden with “industrial plants” from other climate zones and areas that are more marketable. Some of these exotic plants can be invasive and disrupt the local environment. Many of these “weeds” are actually very colorful and beautiful, adding to your garden’s aesthetic while attracting butterflies, bees, and birds providing food and shelter.
Natural habitats are being destroyed as lands are turned into urban developments or even farms. The indigenous plants are the critical pillar of the ecosystem for not just the insects, but also the birds and small animals which feed the larger mammals. Many insects are selective and may only eat one specific plant, like the Monarch Butterfly that solely feeds on Milkweed. If the Milkweed were to die out, so would the Monarch. The destruction of habitats is threatening species. We tend to dominate landscapes to build houses, cities, and to grow our food. Adding native plants to the garden help people live harmoniously with nature, reducing the human impact.
The Food Chain
When you think of plants and the role they play in the ecosystem and the food chain, typically insects are the first critters to come to mind. They rely on the plants for food in the form of nectar, pollen, leaves fruits, and seeds. These insects are often food for smaller animals like frogs, birds, or mice, which are food for larger animals. Adding these native plants supports the entire food chain of your local area. Insects are the foundation of the food cycle of many different animals.
Incorporating Native Plants
The idea of native gardening can be a hotly disputed topic among gardeners, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing concept. You can incorporate native plants into your garden, while still having the more traditional and exotic plants that are popular. Add native plants into the perimeter of the garden and yard, while placing the exotic plants by the house and in areas that you frequent, so you can see them more often. Native plant nurseries are becoming more popular. You may be able to find one in your area.
Local Plants are Easier
Local plants are already adapted to the local climate and soil conditions of your area. There’s a reason that these plants are native to the area; they’ve evolved over the years to the unique climate. When you introduce plants from different hardiness zones, they require extra care to be able to thrive out of their natural environment and weather. Gardening with local plants can help to make your garden lower maintenance.
Native plants need less fertilizer, pesticides, water, and can help prevent erosion according to the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Gardeners are incorporating more sustainable gardening practices as we grow more aware of our growing impact on our local environments through education. If you live in an area prone to flooding and heavy rainfall, native plants will be more useful in absorbing the water than an exotic plant that came from a dryer region. Areas that have low rainfall or drought will have native plants that can handle little rainfall like the cactus, compared to an exotic plant that will need lots of water to survive in the dry climate.
Native plants are often labeled “weeds” and seen as less desirable than traditional gardening plants. Many local plants are beautiful, adding color to the garden while promoting and preserving biodiversity. Indigenous plants make your garden unique. When you travel around the world, many gardens have the same plants, the ones that are easily found at hardware stores. While regions may have differences due to climate and hardiness, you can celebrate your local culture and environment by planting local and native plants. These plants help your garden to be unique to where you live, featuring plants that are native to the area.
Incorporating local plants into your garden helps to support your local wildlife and promote biodiversity. Natural habitats are being damaged as we expand urban areas and expand farmland. The indigenous plants are being threatened, which hurts the local ecosystems. Native plants help provide food and shelter for local wildlife and are an important staple of the food chain. If the native plants go extinct, so do the insects and birds that used them as their source of food. Local plants can be just as colorful and beautiful as the traditional plants seen in a nursery of a hardware store and are better suited for your specific climate and soil conditions. Next time you want to add plants to your garden, consider naturescaping and incorporating local plants along with the fun and exotic plants.