Grit Blogs > Going Native

What Is a Native?

A profile pic of MaryNative plants, like the people who are native to a region, have lived in that area for generations and have developed a community. Local people dress, eat and live in ways suited to their environment, and so do native plants. Native plants ‘house’ local pollinators, insects, birds and animals that have coevolved to create a local ecosystem.

Native plants are vigorous and hardy, so they can survive winter cold and summer heat. Once established, they require no irrigation or fertilization, and they are resistant to most pests and diseases. The root systems of native plants are long and deep, which helps rainfall percolate into the soil, which reduces erosion and runoff.

Joe-pye weed
Joe-pye weed is a native plant that attracts butterflies and bees. 

Native plants are part of a balanced community that regulates itself; no one member of the food chain dominates another. Walk through a native forest. You will see some leaves eaten by insects, but not entire trees. The checks and balances of the native ecosystem work splendidly.

Black willows are host plants for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Viceroy butterflies. 

Stand on your front lawn.  What do you hear?  Maybe birds in a nearby tree or a bee as it flies by.  The next time you take a walk along or in a field filled with grasses and wildflowers, what do you hear?  Buzzing and chirping and singing from a myriad of creatures that call that field home. The area is full of life.  It is healthy.  That living, dynamic, beautiful ecosystem is what all gardeners want on their piece of ground.

An egret poses for a photo in the wetland. 

The forest, grassland, and wetland ecosystems are all native ecosystems in North America.  Local native plant nurseries can provide you with native plants to help you create or enhance your native landscape.  With a healthy piece of ground, your work as a gardener becomes that much more fulfilling.  Yes, we joyfully take from the soil that which we sowed.  But we are also giving back to the creatures we share this land with and for those who will enjoy this piece of ground in years to come.

mary pellerito
5/23/2012 3:42:24 PM

I was wondering through a friend's garden, and he said that nettle soup is really good. I do not like grape vines at all. We chop them down in the winter. Some vines are as wide as my forearm and have taken down trees.

nebraska dave
5/21/2012 2:38:45 PM

Mary, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. I have read about gardens that only use native plants to the area. I believe it's called xeriscape gardening. The whole thrust of that kind of gardening is low maintenance. It's not quite as manicured as a formal garden but it does have its beauty. As you have stated it attracts the native wild life and creates a ecological environment that fits the weather of the area. However, as with the case of my newly acquired garden area, it can be quite a habitat nuisance when the balance gets out of control. The attempt to bring land under submission and use it for something it wasn't really intended is a never ending battle between wild plant life and wild animal life. My goal is to live in harmony with most everything except maybe the stinging nettle weeds .... well, may the wild grape vines too .... ah, ok, and the native wild grass. So far I'm just barely staying on the leading edge of the return to the wild. For being in the inner city, I do feel the pioneer spirit of trying to overcome the wildness of the land. :0) Have a great native plant day.