Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4

canadian white violet flower
Canadian White Violet

Many native plants, animals and insects have become endangered as the world’s population grows and expands into areas previously untouched by humans. To mitigate these issues, residents should be encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. Not only do natives promote habitats, a community can save water and reduce erosion and flooding problems.

Lake County, Illinois’s 2010 census has the population at 703,462 with projections of 786,000 by 2020. Lake County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and that will mean many, large subdivisions being built here.

dead dirt
The ‘Dirt-Pile-Of-Death’…..

One of the problems is the builders of these new communities strip off a deep, top-layer of earth before building, and pile it up in the corner of the land. This “top-soil” looses nutrients, becomes compacted, and looses it’s air circulation promoting harmful, bacterial growth within it. As the houses are being built, heavy construction equipment collapses and compacts the lower horizon of soil (generally clay here) promoting poor drainage. After building is complete, the piled up, nutrient poor, mediocre topsoil is replaced. Aside from installing a water greedy lawn, the neighborhood is usually left with little other vegetation.


Another problem is when new people move to a new area, they want to bring or install the plants they remember from home. Most non-native plants are not deleterious, but they will use up more of your time and resources. However, sometimes these non-native plants can become extreme bothers; these species are called invasive species. A fable many, naive people believe is that an area overrun with non-natives will “go back” to native plants if an area is left alone; this is untrue!

There are many non-native plants that are generally no danger to the local environment. Though many of the non-invasive, non-native plants that people use in their gardens are stressed in the different environment, they may acclimate over a few years. Despite the fact that the plant may look healthy, it may be because of all the additional water, fertilizer and care a person must give to it. Because of all these added requirements these plants often become a maintenance issue, pollution concern (fertilizer run-off) and accrue costs accordingly.

burning bush type of plant with red leaves not on fire haha
Euonymus alaus – Burning bush

The real danger to the native landscape is non-native, invasive species. An invasive plant has the ability to thrive and multiply aggressively outside its natural range (everything is native to somewhere). Some invasive plants are worse than others.  Many invasive plants continue to be admired by gardeners, and sold illegally by nurseries that may not be aware of their weedy nature, or just want to make money. Others are recognized as weeds but property owners fail to do their part in preventing their spread.

Examples of some of the plants that were just recently added to the invasive species list for this area were: Acer platanoides – Norway Maple, Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry, Euonymus alata – Burning Bush, Viburnum opulus – European Cranberry Bush, and Lonicera spp. – all exotic honeysuckles, to name a few.

Some of the characteristics used to classify an invasive species are:

  • They produce large numbers of plants seasonally.
  • They tolerate many weather conditions and soil types.
  • They spread proficiently by wind, water, and animals.
  • They grow rapidly, allowing them to displace slower growing plants.
  • They spread rampantly and are free of the checks and balances of their native range.

If people continue to use non-native plants in the landscape, many native species of plants, insects and animals will be lost. Aside from this, the cost of non-invasive plant maintenance and the time needed to care for them are higher, as the non-natives cannot fight out the invasives (increased weeding time and/or herbicide use). However, a native plant garden that is established and has it’s biosphere in check will be able to fend off most non-natives.

Check in tomorrow for the next part of the four day series

© The Naturarian

14 thoughts on “Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4”

  1. In the big city where I live (Berlin), insects do often find better living conditions than in the surrounding countryside with its agro-monocultures. May be it is astonishing for you but the city of Berlin manufactures each year more than 10,000 kgs of honey which is quite nice. However, in the recent decades nearly 80 % of all insects have been extincted in Germany, for other European countries there are no respective detailed scientific studies in this regard. So,we really have to do something to safeguard the natural wildness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sad about losing all the insects, due to neighbors. In the U.S., we don’t have to worry about that as much.. Not as many neighbors 😉
      However, that doesn’t mean the U.S. isn’t doing bad things to the environment that effects the bees.
      I sure hope we all can strike a balance with how we treat nature and hopefully, bees will be around pollinating our plants for a long time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. we totally agree with you with non-native things and eggs-ports we disturb the balance of nature… and therefore we have now this ugly brown snails, the asian ladybug what ruins more wine than it protects and this fabulous procession moths…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s true that we like to plant the flowers we knew as kids, but it makes much more sense to grow indigenous plants that have adapted to the area and climate, and will be water-wise and fauna-friendly. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here in South Africa we too suffer from invasive alien plants like lantana and wattle choking our waterways, transforming grasslands into wastelands and degrading habitats for native wildlife, placing a huge burden on our already suffering economy and stressed state coffers to eradicate them in order to ensure a reliable supply of water and grazing to sustain our populations. Looking forward to the next installments!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You scratched the top of one of my running sores. Greedy Lawns. There is a small town between Ballarat and Melbourne called Bacchus Marsh. It has been one of the main market garden areas supplying Melbourne greengrocers for many years. Now HALF of the area that produced vegetables is used to grown lawn so that a new house that is built on one of these estates can have a perfect lawn growing within 24 hours on completion.


  6. A very interesting problem. I went to a talk recently where it was pointed out that urban ecosystems, even with the exotics, are more diverse than what is is the surrounding countryside. In some cases this has helped preserve species that can no longer exist in the new agricultural landscape. What a tangled web we weave.

    Liked by 1 person

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