Audubon Asks Did You Know?

Courtesy of Skidaway Audubon

Do you know what exactly is a native plant, and why they are important? A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human intervention. They provide watchable wildlife habitats, sustaining native butterflies, birds, reptiles, and other animals by providing the exact kind of food and shelter they need.

Non-native or introduced plants are plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature. Because they may not support wildlife as well as native plants or can crowd out native plants, they can degrade ecosystems.

As science writer Rene Ebersole describes it, “For a bird searching for a nice place to raise a family, the classic suburban yard – a tidy bed of grass, one or two shade trees, and a row of leafy foundation plantings imported from China – must be like a foreclosed fixer-upper in a bad neighborhood. The accommodations are spare, and all the local restaurants are dives.” In contrast, yards brimming with native plants, she notes, “…offer all the perks of a Park Avenue suite with a stocked pantry and a view.”

The objective of Skidaway Audubon’s Nature Notices initiative is to create a welcoming haven for island wildlife by encouraging property owners to replace a portion of their lawns with areas of native plantings such as native flowers, shrubs, or understory trees. If a tree must be removed, it should be replaced with native greenery somewhere on the property because nature notices when its home and food sources have been destroyed.

There are several benefits to “going native”. Native plants require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than lawns and can help prevent erosion better than grass. Additionally, since native plants have adapted to the local climate, gardeners have a greater chance of success when they use native plants.

Learn more about Nature Notices at skidawayaudubon.org and attend nationally acclaimed author Doug Tallamy’s special presentation on October 10 in the Palmetto Ballroom at 4 p.m. His book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, a New York Times bestseller, outlines easy steps homeowners can take to “go native” and protect the environment. For event details, visit skidawayaudubon.org.

 

 

The Blanket Flower, shown at left, is a native plant. Photo courtesy of Amy Collings.