WHY PLANT NATIVE PLANTS?
- Native Midwestern plants are sustainable. They are well-suited to the climate and soil conditions of the area where they are found naturally–they are grown successfully with little effort. They are adapted to extreme temperatures, blustery winds, and intense sunlight. They are drought-resistant–once established, after 2-3 years, they need no supplementary water. The roots of prairie plants grow deep into the earth–some as much as 15’ where water is available. (The root systems make up 2/3 of the plants’ biomass). In addition, the surfaces of the leaves may be hairy, deflecting sun and wind, or thick and leathery or waxy to minimize transpiration. They do not need to be dead-headed or divided–they like to grow close together and they seed themselves about, making them bountiful beyond belief. They need no fertilizers nor pesticides. The growing point of prairie plants is just below the surface, making them resistant to fire, unlike exotic species. An annual controlled burn fertilizes the plants with its ash and keeps woody plants and Eurasian weeds at bay. Nothing needs to be brought in, nothing has to be taken out. If native soil is no longer on the site, native plants wil create native soils.
My side yard gardens in July–mostly Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii) with Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) next to the far end of the house. The lawn is no more than a path.
2. Native plants improve the soil and absorb and hold rainwater. 1/3 of the dense root systems of prairie grasses and sedges decompose every year, enriching the soil with organic matter and increasing its water-holding capacity. The decomposed roots open channels for water to infiltrate into the soil and replenish the shallow aquifer. This water infiltration and holding capacity prevents runoff, erosion, and flooding.
3. Deep-rooted prairie plants have the ability to sink carbon--in the temperate zone where we live, grasslands are more efficient at absorbing carbon than are forests. CRI’s Writings, Essays and Biological Monographs The Realities of CO2:Seeing through the Smog of Rhetoric and Politics Gerould Wilhelm
4. Native plants support biodiversity by providing food for native insects, that in turn are eaten by native birds–96% of birds eat insects. Native landscapes and gardens provide habitat for birds, butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, crickets,and other insects; frogs, toads, and salamanders; and they offer fascinating places for children to play.
Black Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) next to my house.
Bumblebee on Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida).
5. Native landscapes celebrate the character, history, and identity of a particular community and region.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalogue bungalow, the parts of which were manufactured and sold in the Midwest, surrounded by the Midwest quintessential Showy Black-eyed Susan.
Typical Midwest prairie garden with Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) , Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya), and Showy Black-eyed Susan, ( all within a matrix of Prairie Drop Seed (Sporobolis heterolepis).