Native plants benefit you and the environment

Native plants benefit you and the environment

While the garden of the quite contrary Mary consisted of silver bells and cockleshells, it’s more than likely that yours doesn’t.

So what vegetation should you include when designing your own landscape? Our highly rated experts advise using indigenous plants, as natural habitats allow flora to flourish.

How does your garden grow?

According to Leslie Pierpont, owner of highly rated Native and Uncommon Plants in Jacksonville, Fla., local vegetation thrives in its natural environment, and therefore requires less use of fertilizer, pesticides and water.

The Environmental Protection Agency attributes this to the fact that indigenous plants, once established, adapt to local conditions and are less prone to developing pest problems.

The EPA also says native grasses don’t need to be mowed as often.

Why should I avoid the exotics?

Tempted by the alluring nature of an exotic plant? Not so fast, says Seth Berman, owner of highly rated Seth Berman Gardeners in Cambridge, Mass. Incorporating them into your landscape may harm your habitat and create a negative domino effect, he says.

For instance, Japanese barberry, an invasive, exotic species that’s covered by needles and thorns, prevents predators of the white-footed mouse, such as fox, owls and hawks, from hunting it properly. Left unchecked, Berman says white-footed mice, which carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, can infect a large number of ticks.

The pervasive garlic mustard plant also affects the environment. Berman says while many people use it as a garlic replacement, it produces a chemical that hinders the growth of native plant species.

How can I help the environment?

Planting native species benefits the environment, as well. According to the EPA, the reduced use of pesticides decreases the chance that these hazardous chemicals end up in local bodies of water as stormwater runoff. This works to increase water quality and decrease the risk of harm to humans, animals and other plants.

Because native grasses need to be cut less often, air quality improves. The EPA says lawn and garden equipment produce 5 percent of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds, and decreasing the use of these machines cuts the amount of smog produced and toxins released into the air.

What can I do to encourage more wildlife?

Native plants also benefit birds and insects by providing food and a habitat, Berman says. Just as a panda eats bamboo, local animals feast on foods found locally.

For example, Berman says in Massachusetts, birds thrive on the berries of the gray dogwood and swallowtail butterflies love spicebushes, both of which are local to Massachusetts.

According to the EPA, native plants enhance the biodiversity of an area by attracting many varieties of birds, butterflies and animals.

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