Author Topic: Native plants have advantages in our lawns and gardens  (Read 1336 times)

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Offline CatManDo

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Native plants have advantages in our lawns and gardens
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 08:04:30 AM »
Many people are discovering that, when it comes to plants in their lawns and flower gardens, beauty doesnít have to come from elsewhere.

Many of the grasses and flowers adorning our yards and flowerbeds are exotic species ó plants that are native to other parts of the world. Maintaining these plantsí beauty is often a high-maintenance job. Because they may not be accustomed to our soils, temperature, rainfalls and insect pests, many exotic plants require high amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and other labors that takes more of your time ó and money ó than you had originally intended. An increasing number of people are realizing that native plants ó the trees, flowers, and grasses that were here to begin with ó can be just as beautiful to look at and a lot less trouble to grow.

Native plants have a number of advantages over their non-native counterparts. For instance, letís look at root systems. Fescue and Kentucky bluegrass ó two popular types of lawn grass that arenít native to this region ó have roots that extend a few inches below the soil. Contrast that to buffalo grass, which is native to this area. Its root system can go down as far as 9 feet.

Why is this an advantage? The deeper a plantís roots are, the greater its ability to absorb and retain water ó which means less watering for you. Deeply rooted plants also do a better job of holding the soil in place, which helps deter erosion.

Itís a similar root story when you compare many of the popular non-native ornamental flowers with native wildflowers. Most exotic flowers have relatively small root systems. Few have underground growth that can compare with native flowers like pale purple coneflower (5-foot roots), black-eyed Susans (up to 6 feet) and blazing star (up to 15 feet).

There are other advantages to native plants besides deep roots. Wildlife attraction is also a benefit. A variety of songbird and butterfly species can often be enticed to your backyard with the proper plantings.

These plants provide food, nesting and other habitat essentials required by these animals. Those instinctual needs will often draw wildlife and insect species to specific plants whether theyíre growing at a nature center or in your backyard.

Native plants come in many shapes, colors and forms. The best natural landscaping plan is one that involves a mixture of plant types, but space can be a limiting factor for homeowners and, if it is, thatís still all right. Native plants can work for you whether you have 10 acres on the edge of town or a single flowerbed alongside your driveway.

People can learn more about native plants and their landscaping benefits on Saturday April 7th 2012 at the Missouri Department of Conservationís Native Plant Seminar and Sale at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. No registration is required for this event, which is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information about the programs being offered during this event, call 417-888-4237.

The Grow Native program, a joint effort of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, also contains excellent information about how native plants can fit into backyard plans. More information about the program can be found at your nearest Department of Conservation office or on the Grow Native website,