Why are native plants so important?

I am often asked why native plants are becoming so popular, and why we’re reading and hearing so much about them these days. I think it’s part of a larger “green movement” that we’re experiencing in our country today. People are becoming more aware and better educated about our environment through organizations like the National Wildlife Federation.

There seems to be a sincere desire to live in such a way that our impact on the environment is lessened. Perceptions about nature and beauty are changing too. While a meadow or a woodland garden may once have been thought of as “messy,” natural landscapes are now valued for their biodiversity as well as their beauty.

Another reason that native plants are becoming so popular is that people are having real success growing natives, quite simply because they are easier to grow. They are already adapted to your soil and climate. And, once your new plants are established, their water needs are more in balance with what nature provides.

Native plants provide food and shelter for the birds, butterflies and all the other creatures we cherish and delight in watching. Here is an example that everyone can identify with: the relationship between a Monarch butterfly and a milkweed plant.

Milkweed plants produce alkaloids that are toxic to many creatures. Monarch butterflies have evolved to have an immunity to the toxins and, in fact, by ingesting them are less delectable and better able to ward off bird predation. The relationship is so interconnected that Monarchs can only feed on milkweed. Please, think about it for one minute: no milkweed, no more Monarchs. That is not an unusual story in the world of plants and animals.

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