Native plants have been gaining in popularity for several years as gardeners discover a new horizon of horticultural selections. Once relegated to the forest preserve and various other conservation organizations’ sales, more are available throughout the growing season every year. Commercial venues continue to offer native plants as the demand increases.
Several organizations such as Wild Ones are dedicated to rescuing existing native plants from development as well and are committed to native plant education. Wild One’s volunteers negotiate with developers to remove native plants from the property before the bulldozers arrive. This organization started in Milwaukee during the mid-1970’s and has since grown to be active nationwide.
There are many reasons for this growing interest in native plants. The wide variety and undeniable beauty of native plants surprise some people. The assumption is often made that native plants must be dull and drab since all we’ve seen in the garden centers are hybrids. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Most native plants are not weedy, boring, allergy-inducing rejects that were improved to garden quality in the greenhouse.
You really can’t beat natives for their durability. Simple logic will tell you why. Since they evolved here, they are already adapted to the climate, soil, insects, other wildlife and the unpredictable extremes of all these elements. This not only makes it more likely they will survive, they are also more likely to thrive without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, artificial irrigation or exotic mulch. These unnatural aids are expensive, confusing, time-consuming and vulnerable to being misused and causing pollution. Even when used correctly, they are no more effective than natural practices.
Another reason to use native plants has to do with our planet’s well being. Every year, more discoveries are made about benefits from plant material. Plants can be medicinal in treatment and preventive roles. They help clean the air and water and prevent erosion. Prairie species of this area have roots up to twenty feet deep. Native plants are vital to wildlife habitat, and play a pivotal part in our local heritage. Humankind will continue to reap these precious benefits to utmost potential only if the Earth’s biodiversity is preserved.
Nurtured in our gardens or left to their own devices in land preserves, native plants tend to reproduce and find a wonderful balance wherever they live. If you haven’t had much experience with native plants, consider giving them a try this growing season. You will be rewarded with good results, and contributing to a greater cause.