Native plants have deep, “thirsty” roots that help retain water on your site and filter out the pollutants in runoff. They help stabilize soils and prevent erosion.
Native plants are drought tolerant, so you water less. Native plants are disease resistant and rarely require fertilizers, so you save money. Native plants improve soil conditions on their own, so you save time.
If you live in an urban or suburban neighborhood, use native plants to create attractive, low-maintenance garden borders around your lawn or use them on a steep slope or berm where mowing is a challenge.
If your home is on a lake, river or stream, create a native plant buffer along the water’s edge. Keep the buffer at least 20 feet wide, with narrow access paths winding down to the water.
Reducing water runoff from yards is key to protecting water quality. Water that runs off lawns and gardens can contain pollutants like fertilizers, dirt and debris. When polluted runoff enters storm drains and ditches, it is discharged into the river system unfiltered.
Native plants can thrive on rain water and generally don’t need fertilizing. Their resilience is due in large part to their massive root systems. Because the roots reach deep into the soil – in some cases, as far down as ten feet – the plants can access water even during dry times. New root growth reduces soil compaction, and the die-off of old roots adds humus and nutrients to the soil.
Using native plants, you can create a stunning garden that blooms all season long. Native plants offer a unique pallet of color, texture and shape, plus a wide variety of heights and sizes. Attractive, well-placed native plants enhance your garden and property.
Here’s a small sampling of some familiar native plants:
Maple leaf viburnum
When purchasing native plants, be sure to ask the exact source. Because plants vary from region to region, it is best to use stock from your local area or the next closest geographic region. Collecting plants in the wild can devastate plant populations, so be sure the stock was propagated at the nursery by plant division, from cuttings or from seed. Learn more below for suggested native plant sources, or ask your local nursery about obtaining native stock.
Wild Ones. A national nonprofit organization that promotes the use of native plants in private and public landscaping.
Native Plant Information Network. This website has lots of information on native plants including, (a) an online database of more than 2,900 native plant species, with color photographs, growing information, and more, (b) a national directory of more than 2,000 landscapers with experience using native plants, (c) a national directory of native plant and seed suppliers, and (d) downloadable fact sheets from the Wildflower Center’s Clearinghouse, including regional Recommended Species lists, Native Plant Bibliographies, and Native Plant Organizations lists.
Michigan Native Plant Producers Association. A group of independently owned nurseries located throughout the state of Michigan that grow and sell Michigan native plants and seeds, including, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, and ferns.
Natural Area Preservation Division of the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department. NAP’s website has information on Michigan native plants including short lists of Michigan native plants for getting started. Categories include Trees; Shrubs; Vines; Perrenials; Ferns; Grasses, Rushes and Sedges. Be sure to look for details on how to get their printed brochure series which includes four detailed brochures written with the home landscaper in mind. Each one provides tips and useful information on creating a native plant garden along with native plant descriptions that include natural habitat, site tolerance, plant height, bloom time, color, and other ornamental features.
University of Michigan Herbarium. The goals of this Michigan Flora Website are to present, in a searchable and browsable form, the basic information about all vascular plants known to occur outside of cultivation in the state. Searchable by common name, scientific name, genus, species and a whole host of other categories, it includes lots of information and a wealth of photos of native plants.
Native Plants Defined
Plants that are “native” have evolved in a particular region over thousands of years. They have adapted to the soil conditions, moisture conditions and weather conditions of that region.
Native plants occur in communities, that is, they have evolved together with other plants and animals. As a result, a community of native plants provides food and habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds, butterflies and small wildlife. As the seasons change, you will enjoy watching a host of wildlife in your garden.
Cultivating native plants helps protect the splendid biodiversity of our area. Biodiversity – a variety of different species – is important to the health of the ecosystem. Diverse plant populations are less susceptible to devastation by disease, and they support a wider range of wildlife.
From Non-Native into Invasive
Non-native plants, also called exotic species, are those than have been transplanted from places where they did not evolve. In southeastern Michigan, sources of non-native plants include both other continents (Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia) as well as other ecosystem areas of the United States.
THESE SHOULD NOT BE PLANTED!
Introduction of non-native plants into our landscape has been both accidental and deliberate. If a non-native plant grows aggressively, it is considered “invasive” and can have devastating effects on other plant populations. Purple loosestrife, for example, was introduced from Europe in the 1800’s in ship ballast and as a medicinal herb and ornamental plant. It quickly spread and is now crowding out the native species that provide food for aquatic creatures in 42 states.
Other examples of invasive species in the southeastern Michigan area that produce an overabundance of seedlings which can spread into natural areas and displace native plant species include: Norway maple (acer plantanoides), Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata), Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica, Rhamnus frangula), Privet (Ligustrum vulare) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica, Lonicera maackii, Lonicera tatarica).