red admiral butterfly on joe pye
According to the USDA, a native plant is one that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region. Native plant communities are a vital part of a local healthy ecosystem, which is a geographic area where plants, animals and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes interconnect.
In contrast, a non-native plant is one that has been introduced with human help (intentionally or accidentally) to a new place or new type of habitat where it was not previously found. Often people incorrectly assume weeds and native plants are one in the same. A weed is a plant (native or non-native) that is not valued in the place where it is growing. Interestingly, most common “weeds” are non native plants.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
For many decades our culture has put higher value on non-native imported plants that have been encouraged by our “green” landscape industry. Subsequently, most residential landscapes are a barren desert in terms of environmental value. We can’t depend on government parks and preserves to carry the load. There simply aren’t enough. Ninety-five percent of US land has been developed. The “out there” that we have been counting on no longer exists. We need to start considering our residential, business and public landscapes as part of, not separate from the ecosystem that sustains us.
“We have purposefully imported thousands of species of plants, insects and diseases from other lands, which have decimated many native plant communities on which local food webs depend, and we have carved the natural world into tiny remnants, each too small and too isolated to support the variety of species required to sustain the ecosystems that support us.”
– Douglas W. Tallamy