Why are Native Plants Important?
- Perhaps the most important reason to use native plants in your landscape is to provide food for wildlife. Each of us has the power to make a difference by planting native plants. Native plants are able to harvest the sun's energy to create plant material. This plant material is delicious and nutritious to insects who then convert the plant material into delicious and nutritious food (themselves) for other wildlife who depend on that insect meat (biomass) to feed themselves and their babies. Dr. Doug Tallamy's studies showed native plants produced four times more herbivore biomass than alien plants and supported 3.2 times as many species. For lepidoptera production and support, native plants supported 35 times more caterpillar biomass than alien plants.
- Native plants provide a sense of place. Most of us choose to live here and love it here. So, let's enjoy the way it is supposed to look! Forget what you knew up north, this is southwest Florida. Your yard should look like it belongs here.
- Invasive exotic (alien) plants and pests have a long history of creating costly problems after they are imported by escaping captivity. Because these exotic plants are "pest-free" they are sometimes able to grow wildly and become a nuisance in areas where they don't belong. Once "loose," these plants are able to smother and outcompete our native plants. Other times, hitchhiking insects make their way here on the exotic plants. Some examples of these are: melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, senna pendula, Mexican petunia, most garden center lantana, Sri Lanka weevil, rugose spiraling whitefly, and many, many more. They cost millions, even billions of dollars in damage and control.
- Generally speaking, non-native plants are not well-adapted to our lousy soil. Therefore, they require fertilizer, supplemental irrigation and herbicides to survive. Excess fertilizer runoff and leaching into waterways is believed to cause red tide and other costly issues. However, once established, native plants in the right place will survive very well without any need for these additions. Plus, a well-planned native landscape will not need pollution-belching lawn mowers!
- By increasing awareness and demand for native plants, we can all help rescue native plants from potential extinction.