Facts about native plants

Contents

What Is a Native Plant?

Red maple range map by Elbert
Little, Jr., U.S. Geological Survey,
via Wikipedia

The concept of natural range is so central to the definition of native plant, that we cannot meaningfully say a plant is native without saying where it is native to. Political boundaries fail us in this regard, as they usually lack any geologic or climatologic significance that would influence the conditions of co-evolution. The Mason-Dixon line, the northern border of Maryland, is a prime example of a political boundary of no ecological significance.

This natural range map (left) shows the geographic region where red maple occurred prior to European colonization. Most native plant species have huge natural ranges. Red maple, for example, is native from Florida to Canada. However, red maples that co-evolved with Florida growing conditions can’t survive a Maryland winter, and red maples that co-evolved with Canadian growing conditions can’t survive a Maryland summer!

This science-based definition of native plant may be helpful to you in discussions about native plant species and their ecological role:

  1. Occur naturally
  2. In their ecoregion and habitat where
  3. Over the course of evolutionary time
  4. They have adapted to physical conditions and co-evolved with the other species in the system.

The US EPA Level III Ecoregions of Maryland. Ecoregions are zones of relatively homogenous
growing conditions characterized by particular types of natural plant communities.

Ecoregions and Ecotypes

Even within their natural range, native plant species are genetically adapted to local growing conditions. This adaptation is typically referred to as “local provenance” or “ecotype”. An ecotype is a subset of a species that possesses genetic adaptation to local growing conditions. Sometimes ecotypic adaptations are visible to us as variations in shape, size, or color. Other ecotypic adaptations are not readily apparent, for example adaptations to various soil chemistries, minimum winter temperatures, and drought tolerance. Even if you can’t see the differences, it is still important to get the correct ecotype for your project site.

Butterfly milkweed is one of our most popular native plants. The species contains three visibly distinct ecotypes,
whose distributions are indicated here in red. Maps from the USDA Plants website.

Sourcing Native Plants for a Garden

So in a landscaping project, the question becomes
1. Is the project site within the natural range of the plant species?
2. Where within that range should my native plants come from?
To be clear, that second question is not “Where should the business I buy native plants from be located?” It’s about where the plants co-evolved, in other words, where were the seeds used to grow the plants wild-collected from?

The US Forest Service recommends that, for optimal benefits, native plants be sourced within the same U.S. EPA Level III Ecoregion. Research has shown that ecoregion maps provide good estimates, in most cases, of the optimal ranges for transfer of native plants. Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service recommends moving native plants no further than a half USDA Plant Hardiness Zone to the north or south. You don’t need to superpose Level III Ecoregion and Plant Hardiness Zone maps yourself because the US Forest Service has already developed “safe plant/seed transfer zones” (STZs) maps for the entire United States.

An STZ, like the one shown above, is “an area within which plant materials can be transferred
with little risk of being poorly adapted to their new location.” To find the STZ for your project,
visit the WWETAC Seed Zones WebMap and click on the “Provisional Seed Zones” tab.

You might also wish to take climate change into consideration when selecting native plants. Climate change is altering plant growing conditions to the extent that plants that some plants that are native to an area today will not be adapted to that area 25, 50 or 100 years from now. This is especially true for trees.

Resources

Biota of North America Program (species distribution by county for the entire US) www.BONAP.org

Maryland Biodiversity Project http://www.marylandbiodiversity.com

Maryland Native Plant Society Native Plant Sources

US EPA Level III/IV Ecoregion Maps. https://www.epa.gov/eco-research/level-iii-and-iv-ecoregions-continental-united-states

US Forest Service WWETAC Seed Zones WebMap. https://www.fs.fed.us/wwetac/threat-map/TRMSeedZoneMapper.php

Weakley, Alan. 2015. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. 1,320 pp. http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm

About

Native Plants

Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature do not support wildlife as well as native plants. Occasionally, they can even escape into the wild and become invasive exotics that destroy natural habitat.

Native plants help the environment the most when planted in places that match their growing requirements. They will thrive in the soils, moisture and weather of your region. That means less supplemental watering, which can be wasteful, and pest problems that require toxic chemicals. Native plants also assist in managing rain water runoff and maintain healthy soil as their root systems are deep and keep soil from being compacted.

Native Plant Finder

Bring your garden to life! Enter your zip code to discover the best native plants, attract butterflies and moths, and support birds and other fauna. Native Plant Finder is an indispensable tool, based on the research of Dr. Douglas Tallamy of the University of Delaware and in partnership with the United States Forest Service.

Discovering the native plants where you live can also define a unique sense of place and heritage for your garden habitat while preserving the natural history of the flora and fauna of your region.

Root systems of Non-Native vs. Native Mid-Atlantic Plants. Source: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

From the pages of National Wildlife® magazine:
Native, or Not So Much? Native plants transformed into flashy “nativars” may look pretty, but are they good for wildlife?

NATIVE PLANT FINDER

What Is a Native Plant?

  1. One that exists in a given region through non-human introduction, directly or indirectly (Andrea De-Long Amaya, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)
  2. A plant occurring naturally in an area and not introduced by man; indigenous (GardenWeb)
  3. With respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred, or currently occurs in that ecosystem (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
  4. A Native plant is one that occurred naturally has existed for many years in an area. These plants can be trees, flowers, grasses or any other plant. (Wikipedia)
  5. All indigenous, terrestrial, and aquatic plant species that evolved naturally in an ecosystem (US Forest Service)
  6. A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention (USDA and US National Arboretum)
  7. Any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality (The Garden Helper)
  8. Native plants are those that evolved naturally in North America. More specifically, native plants in a particular area are those that were growing naturally in the area before humans introduced plants from distant places. In eastern and central North America, native plants typically grew in communities with species adapted to similar soil, moisture, and weather conditions. Some of the widespread communities included oak-hickory-chestnut and beech-maple forests, tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, and freshwater marshes. Additional communities occupied specialized niches, including savannahs, fens, bogs, flood plains and alpine areas. (Wild Ones)
  9. A native plant species is one “that occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions” (Federal Native Plant Conservation Committee, 1994)
  10. A native plant, within a specified geographical region of interest, is a plant species (or other plant taxon) currently or historically present there without direct or indirect human intervention. (Larry Morse, L.E.M. Natural Diversity)
  11. Any plant which is a member of a species which was present at a given site prior to European contact (California Native Plant Society)

With the exception of definitions 8 and 11, they all make pretty much the same point. But definitions like 8 and 11 are in common use and have some glaring problems. The by-products of these problems crop up over and over again in the discussion of Native Plants.

It is a direct conclusion of definition 8 that no area, other than North America, can have Native Plants. In addition, the geographic area of North America is so vast that the designation of a plant species as a North American Native provides very little information to the gardener. It is unlikely that a collection of Native Plants taken from a plot in the Yucatan would have any resemblance to a collection taken from Pt. Barrow, Alaska.

The problem with definition 11 is that it’s not quite clear whether Europe could have Native plants or not. (And why do they assume only Europeans carry plants around??!!)

We, at Plant It Wild, are gardeners not debaters. We take a not too rigorous, common sense approach. When we say a plant is Native we mean that it’s a Michigan Native and probably indigenous to our area of northern lower Michigan.

How can I find if a plant is Native?

If you want to find out if a plant species is a Michigan Native, obtain a copy of the Michigan Quality Floristic Assessment by clicking on this link:

Part of the information for all species in the document is a native / non-native designation. There is a whole range of additional information about the species in the document and it is highly recommended.

Unfortunately, identifying a plant as a Michigan Native is much like a smaller version of the North American Native issue. Native plants that do well in Benton Harbor may not do well in Copper Harbor. Your best bet to find out if a Michigan Native plant will do well in your area is to get to know your supplier. We recommend buying plant materials from a local provider. Hopefully the local retailer is also the grower. They will have a great deal of knowledge on the use of the plant in your area.

What about cultivars?

Cultivars are varieties of plants that are the product of selective breeding programs to produce specific desirable characteristics (most often flower color). Aside from the specific desirable characteristics bred into the cultivar, will it behave exactly the same as the species from which it derived? Nobody knows. We prefer to stick with the Native species.

Plant Finder

What is a Native Plant?

A native plant is a plant that is indigenous to a given geographic area in geologic time. Plants that existed on the North American continent before European settlement are North American native plants. This includes plants that occur naturally, or have existed for many years in the prairies, savannas, and woodlands across this country.

Why Native Plants?

Whether you’re gardening in a small space or restoring acres of habitat, native plants support life and biodiversity, and play a crucial role in soil and water conservation. Native plants offer solutions to a host of environmental problems.

Native plants are the heart of the true American landscape. Their unique and enduring beauty resonates with our sense of time and place. The variety of colors, textures and shapes is stunning, and their hardiness and adaptability are unsurpassed.

Restore Life and Rebuild Community

In a balanced ecosystem, native plants are the foundation of a biodiverse, living community. They are the basis of an interdependent community of plants, insects, birds and mammals that meet each others needs perfectly. Not simply prefered, many native plants are key requirements in the lifecycle of the myriad species that depend upon them for surivial. Whether used in a garden border, or a landscape restoration effort, native plants:

  • attract and support local and migrating birds
  • attract and support butterflies and moths
  • attract and support pollinating insects of all kinds

Repair Environmental Degradation

Rain gardens, erosion control, detention basins, shoreline buffers – these are ways that native plants help solve our environmental problems. Native plants have deep root systems that help protect and build the soil. Their roots systems can mitigate flooding and absorb pollutants in water run off – protecting rivers, streams and lakes from harmful contaminants.

  • Deep root systems stabilize soil and protect from soil erosion on slopes of all kinds including stream banks and shorelines.
  • Shoreline plantings mitigate the chemicals in water run off from lawns and other sources, that clog lakes with algae and rob the water of oxygen.
  • Detention basins absorb excess rain water, reducing the impact of flooding and overflow in municipal water systems.
  • Raingardens capture excess runoff from houses and remove pollutants from street water, reducing the load and the toxins in the water system.

Reduce Water Use and Lower Maintenance

Native plants are drought tolerant to the extent that they are planted where they can thrive without additional resources. To gain the benefits of drought tolerant natives and lower water use, choose plants that will thrive in the soil conditions at your location. The Plant Finder tool can help you select plants by soil type, soil conditions and features. Or, go to Native Plants where you’ll find plants arranged by soil types.

Natural landscaping with native plants creates beautiful biodiverse spaces that reduce the need for mowing and eliminate the need for fertilization. Looking for ideas for that acre that you’re mowing but not using? One of our seed mixes could be the perfect solution.

What Makes a Plant “Native?” Why Use Native Plants?

Native plants originally occur within a region as the result of natural processes rather than human intervention. In Missouri and surrounding states, native plants are species that have existed since prior to the time of wide-spread European settlement a little more than 200 years ago. While the activities of indigenous people did affect the region’s ecosystems, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that large-scale habitat alteration and the introduction of non-native plants began to significantly change the natural landscape of the Midwest. Native plant species in the Midwest have evolved here over the millennia and are best adapted to the region’s climate and soil conditions. Even more importantly, native plant species have co-evolved with native insect species and provide important food resources for thousands of species of invertebrates that in turn provide food for native birds and other animals.

Choosing native plants in developed landscapes allows them to coexist with nature, rather than compete with it. Increasingly, gardeners and landscape enthusiasts in Missouri and elsewhere in the lower Midwest are choosing native plants. The benefits of native landscaping are fueling a gardening movement that says “no” to pesticides and fertilizers and “yes” to biodiversity and creating more sustainable landscapes. Novice and professional gardeners are turning to native landscaping to manage storm water, reduce maintenance, and promote plant and wildlife conservation.

For Stormwater Management

Using moisture-loving plants in rain gardens and in bioretention and wetland detention basins slows down and absorbs rainwater, thus reducing the quantity and velocity of storm water runoff while improving water quality.

For Less Maintenance

Compared with lawns and mulched tree, shrub, and perennial plantings, landscapes planted with appropriate native plants require less maintenance.

They require minimal watering (except during establishment and drought periods) and they need no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Characteristics of native plants that reduce maintenance include:

• Longevity: plants that live for many decades

• Three to four-season interest: plants that are appealing most of the year

• Variable conditions: plants that tolerate a wide range of light and moisture conditions

• Small and compact: plants that are in scale with a given space

• Weed elimination: plants that grow into dense groupings and eliminate weeds

• Seediness: plants that do not spread readily from seed

To Create Wildlife Habitat

A native plant garden or large planting with a diversity of trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses provides food and shelter for insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals throughout the growing season. Leaving seed heads and plant structure throughout winter provides continuing food and shelter for many creatures and provides opportunities to observe nature up close. To underscore the importance of native plants to birds, virtually all terrestrial birds feed their young insects. Native plants provide food for insects, and insects provide food for birds. With no insects, we would have no birds.

For Resistance to Deer Browse

Deer are adaptable and eat a wide variety of plants. Fortunately there are many native plants that deer avoid. Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine whether an area is safe and which plants are desirable to eat. For instance, plants with aromatic foliage such as wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and round-leaved groundsel (Senecio obovatus) deter deer. Some plants repel deer because of their coarse, rough, hairy or spiny textures. This group includes rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa). A deer-resistant garden includes a high percentage of these types of plants.

Curlytop ironweed. Photo by Ed Spevak, St. Louis Zoo.

Educational Opportunities

Native plant gardens present endless opportunities for learning about seasonal cycles, wildlife, and plant life cycles. Quiet spaces outside can be used for art and reading classes. Environmental and conservation topics are taught best outdoors.

For a Sense of Place

People who have lived in one place for a time develop images of their home that create a sense of belonging and familiarity. For instance, those who have lived in rural Missouri know about flowering dogwood—its blossoms and berries have made their mark in the hearts and thoughts of so many Missouri residents that it is the state tree. Many people have recognized this heartfelt connection with nature, and it often is referred to as “sense of place.”

For Beautification

Native wildflowers, flowering vines, shrubs, and trees offer a wide range of colors, textures and forms to create dynamic seasonal displays. Grasses and sedges have interesting flowers and seed heads and yellow–orange fall color. Shrubs and trees have fall color and berries that persist into the winter. Choosing a wide assortment of plants ensures seasonal interest, with the bonus of attracting colorful birds, butterflies and insects.

The Value of Native Plants and Local Production in an Era of Global Agriculture

One requires only a small stretch of the imagination to envision people in the Western United States meeting their demand for pine nuts through purchase from local harvesters, or by harvesting the nuts themselves when cones ripen in the autumn. This would greatly reduce the carbon footprint associated with pine nut importation, and would require no water use or fertilizer application, as piñon pines occur naturally under the driest conditions and in relatively nutrient-poor soils. Increased consumption of locally harvested pine nuts might also have the desirable effect of reducing the incidence of “pine nut syndrome” or “pine mouth”. This condition is characterized by an annoying metallic taste that can linger in the mouth for multiple days, and that has been associated with consumption of Pinus armandii, an inedible pine species whose nuts are occasionally found mixed within pine nut batches that have been imported from Asia (Mikkelsen et al., 2014).

Despite all the good reasons, economic and environmental, to promote a local agriculture of pine nuts, we are still far from seeing considerable change from importing these nuts to developing local production. In a world motivated by short-term economic incentives, with nearly unlimited transportability of foods across the globe, most foods people eat are not produced locally. If costs for transport increase, due to rising costs of fossil fuels, that will drastically change the value of local food production and consumption.

Future Prospects of Local Food Production

A recent call to rethink the research and development of food production urges us to nourish humanity more efficiently and improve the food disparity of a world in which 795 million people are undernourished and 2 billion adults are overweight or obese (Haddad et al., 2016). Haddad et al. (2016) discuss ten global research goals, two of which are closely related to our discussion. The first implies understanding the role of food-chain length. Ultimately, that would lead to an optimal mix of short-chain systems where high-quality food is produced and consumed nearby and long-chain systems where large quantities of food travel great distances (see Figures 2F,G). Second, they argue that to improve global food production we must analyze business incentives, mainly for private farmers, retailers and food processors. To help kick-start these activities, we contend that governments should offer more incentives for shorter food-chains by finding solutions to enhance diversity of uses of native plants. Awareness of consumers and farmers for the benefits of commercializing native species will play an important role. The local food movement, urban farming, production and consumption of pesticide-free healthy, nutritious, savory and sustainable food have attracted a great deal of attention in the last decade.

We refer here to agriculture as a more complex system than traditional cultivated crops. Agriculture has a strong impact on the environment: soil and water quality and quantity, deforestation, habitats and biodiversity, intensive farming, economic and social conditions in rural communities (Massy, 2017). The consequences can include the loss of biodiversity, accelerated land degradation, high fertilizer inputs, water contamination and the spread of pesticides hazardous to human health. Regenerative agriculture has arisen as a reaction to the negative effects of agriculture including impacts on land and resource management, humans and ecosystem interfaces. Agricultural practices can move from external-input farming to low-input practices (e.g., water, nutrients, pest control, land, energy) without significantly reducing production (Pittelkow et al., 2015). One of the greatest challenges for agriculture is to reduce the distances between crop production and food consumption. In some cases, this challenge can be met by using local species.

Recruiting native plants to develop cultivation of novel crops has great potential to establish new markets. This potential is countered by great challenges and enormous financial demands—lack of knowledge concerning unfamiliar species, the need for hybridization and agro technical improvements, sometimes with slow growing plants, and the risks associated with exchanging existing crops for uncertain income opportunities in an already conservative market. Some plant species are completely incompatible with any sort of domestication, or their cultivation requires an enormous investment of research, time and money. That is the case for slow growing species (e.g., many trees), plants with specific and narrow niche breadth (e.g., orchid tubers), and food sources that require complex biological interactions that are hard to mimic (i.e., edible mycorrhiza). Nevertheless, the success of some plants that are now harvested for commercial use (e.g., truffles, pine nuts, berries, spices, and herbs) demonstrate that modern food gathering is feasible. Food gathering may be improved in various ways, although many of them are not commonly practiced and deserve more attention. The first step is developing tools to find biological resources that are not used today, by expanding the strategy of ethnobotany, with its pros and cons. People also must continue to evolve ways to better manage naturally occurring plantations, a process that is site-specific. The last step is improving technological solutions for gathering, picking and processing wild fruits and other plant organs. Commercial gathering and developing new crops may balance each other, as the risk of overexploitation may be offset by mitigation of undesired plant invasions and overuse of agricultural inputs.

Local does not necessarily mean native, and using non-native foods grown, harvested, stored and delivered near the place of their consumption is advantageous. Native plants can complement these efforts. Native plants require lower inputs of water, nutrients, pest control and energy. Nevertheless, the long road to greater use of native species and local food production has many obstacles to overcome. Biological barriers to domestication are a challenge. In addition, global markets make it difficult to establish new crops. Other barriers include lack of financial incentives and investments, regulations, and agro-technical boundaries. Moreover, a successful new crop is likely to spread rapidly across the globe, losing its local value. Despite these challenges, the advantages of using native plants for food production are many. They include enabling diverse agriculture entrepreneurship, preserving interspecies crop and genetic diversity to enhance crop endurance in adverse environmental conditions, reducing inputs, reducing conflicts over indigenous land management, reducing environmental conflicts, and intercropping to improve land management.

Conclusion

To date, most research and practical efforts have been devoted to improving existing crops, rather than recruiting new, local species. We conclude that native food production should receive more attention in research and application to initiate and empower regenerative agriculture. Moving from monocultures to more diverse local crops, and domestication of new species, can conserve biological resources, and help to foster more sustainable agroecosystems. However, the use of native plants in local food production has not yet attained a high level of awareness. To reach an optimal balance between short- and long-chains of food production, shorter chains should be supported more vigorously and the evaluation of this balance should consider a more thorough-life-cycle analysis of food production (Edwards-Jones et al., 2008). A pivotal strategy to support more local sources of food production is to allocate more resources for improving harvesting of local plants.

Author Contributions

All authors have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication. OS initiated the work, PW elaborated on the case study of pine nuts, FP was a pivoting writer and improved articulation.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Bandringa, R. W. (1999). “The ethnobotany and descriptive ecology of bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva Pursh (Portulacaceae)”, in The Lower Thompson River Valley, British Columbia: a salient root food of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation. Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia?

Google Scholar

Barney, D. L. (2003). Prospects for domesticating western huckleberries. Small Fruits Rev. 2, 15–29. doi: 10.1300/J301v02n01_03

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Caballero-Arias, H. (2015). “From bitter root to flat bread: Technology, food, and culinary transformations of cassava in the Venezuelan Amazon.” in Cooking Technology: Transformations in Culinary Practice in Mexico and Latin America, ed S. I. Ayora-Diaz (London: Bloomsbury Academic) 41.

Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Drinkwater, L., and Snapp, S. (2007). Understanding and Managing the Rhizosphere in Agroecosystems. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Flowers, T. J. (2004). Improving crop salt tolerance. J. Exp. Bot. 55, 307–319. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erh003

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Gökgöl, M. (1961). Die iranischen Weizen. Z. Pflanzenzüchtg 45, 315–333.

Gottfried, G. J., and Severson, K. E. (1993). “Distribution and multiresource management of piñon-juniper woodlands in the southwestern United States,” in Managing Piñon-Juniper Ecosystems for Sustainability and Social Needs: Proceedings of the Symposium (Santa Fe, New Mexico. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-236. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station).

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Heiser, C. B. Jr. (1976). The Sunflower. Oklahoma, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Johnson, R., and Jellis, G. J. (eds.). (2013). Breeding for Disease Resistance, Vol. 1. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Lanner, R. M. (1981). The Piñon Pine: A Natural and Cultural History. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

Lee, L. S. (2013). Horticultural development of bush food plants and rights of Indigenous people as traditional custodians–the Australian Bush Tomato (Solanum centrale) example: a review. Rangeland J. 34, 359–373. doi: 10.1071/RJ12056

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Lovell, J. H. (1926). Honey Plants of North America. Medina, OH: A.I. Root Company.

Google Scholar

Massy, C. (2017). Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture–A New Earth. Brisbane, QLD: University of Queensland Press.

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Mitchell, J. E., and Roberts, T. C. Jr. (1999). “Distribution of pinyon-juniper in the western United States,” in Proceedings: Ecology and Management of Pinyon-Juniper Communities within the Interior West (Ogden, UT: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station), 146–154.

Google Scholar

Moerman, D. E. (1998). Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Nobel, P. S. (1994). Remarkable Agaves and Cacti. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Google Scholar

Ocean, S. (1993). Acorns and eat’em. Ocean-Hose. Oakland, CA: California Oak Foundation.

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Page, D. H. (2008). “Preliminary thinning guidelines using stand density index for the maintenance of uneven-aged pinyon-juniper ecosystems,” in Ecology, Management, and Restoration of Piñon-Juniper and Ponderosa Pine Ecosystems: Combined Proceedings of the 2005. St. George, Utah and 2006 Albuquerque, New Mexico workshops, Proceedings RMRS-P-51, US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station; Fort Collins, CO, USA.

Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Rabinowitch, H. D., and Currah, L. (eds.). (2002). Allium Crop Science: Recent Advances. Oxford, UK: CABI.

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Richards, R. T. (1997). What the natives know. Wild mushrooms and forest health. J. Forestry. 95, 5–10.

Google Scholar

Robinson, J. (2013). Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food. New York, NY: The New York Times.

Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Schmitz, D. C., and Simberloff, D. (1997). Biological invasions: a growing threat. Issues Sci. Technol. 13, 33–40.

Google Scholar

Sethi, S. (2015). Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Simms, S. R. (2008). Ancient Peoples of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Google Scholar

Slaght, J. C. (2015). Making Pesto? Hold the Pine Nuts. New York, NY: The New York Times.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Wolf, C. B. (1945). California Wild Tree Crops. California, CA: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Record Number: 19456601349.

Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Young, J. A., and Budy, J. D. (1979). Historical use of Nevada’s pinyon-juniper woodlands. J. For. History 23, 112–121. doi: 10.2307/4004663

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Zamir, D. (2001). OPINION: Improving plant breeding with exotic genetic libraries. Nat. Rev. Genet. 2:983. doi: 10.1038/35103590

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

Zohary, D., Hopf, M., and Weiss, E. (2012). Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe, and The Mediterranean Basin. Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand.

Google Scholar

50 Interesting Facts about Plant

Plants form the backbone of the earth’s ecosystem. They provide oxygen and food, which is necessary for survival on earth. Plants can come in various forms such as trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. Here is a list of fun and interesting facts about plants which you didn’t know.

Interesting Plant Facts:

  • An average size tree can provide enough wood to make 170,100 pencils.
  • The first type of aspirin, painkiller and fever reducer came from the tree bark of a willow tree.
  • 85% of plant life is found in the ocean.
  • Bananas contain a natural chemical which can make people feel happy.
  • Brazil is named after a tree.
  • The Amazon rainforest produces half the world’s oxygen supply.
  • Cricket bats are made of a tree called Willow and baseball bats are made out of the wood of the Hickory tree.
  • Dendrochronology is the science of calculating a tree’s age by its rings.
  • Caffeine serves the function of a pesticide in a coffee plant.
  • Apple is 25% air, that is why it floats on water.
  • Peaches, Pears, apricots, quinces, strawberries, and apples are members of the rose family.
  • Apple, potatoes and onions have the same taste, to test this eat them with your nose closed.
  • The tears during cutting an onion are caused by sulfuric acid present in them.
  • The tallest tree ever was an Australian eucalyptus – In 1872 it was measured at 435 feet tall.
  • The first potatoes were cultivated in Peru about 7,000 years ago!
  • The evaporation from a large oak or beech tree is from ten to twenty-five gallons in twenty-four hours.
  • Strawberry is the only fruit that bears its seeds on the outside. The average strawberry has 200 seeds.
  • Leaving the skin on potatoes while cooking is healthier as all the vitamins are in the skin.
  • Around 2000 different types of plants are used by humans to make food.
  • Small pockets of air inside cranberries cause them to bounce and float in water.
  • Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world; it can grow 35 inches in a single day.
  • A sunflower looks like one large flower, but each head is composed of hundreds of tiny flowers called florets, which ripen to become the seeds.
  • Cabbage has 91% water content.
  • Banana is an Arabic word for fingers.
  • The California redwood (coast redwood and giant sequoia) are the tallest and largest living organism in the world.
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest living tree species, it dates back to about 250 million years ago.
  • The word pineapple comes from European explorers who thought the fruit combined the look of a pinecone with flesh like that of an apple.
  • The Elephant grass found in Africa is named so as it is 4.5 meters high and even elephants can hide in it.
  • Eating lots of onions will make you sleepy, as it acts as a sedative!
  • Cucumber is a fruit and not a vegetable since it has seeds in the centre.
  • A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas known as fingers.
  • Vanilla flavouring comes from the pod of an orchid, Vanilla planifolia.
  • The first certified botanical garden was founded by Pople Nicholas III in the Vatican City in 1278 AD.
  • There are over 300,000 identified plant species and the list is growing all the time.
  • Oak trees are struck by lightning more than any other tree.
  • Carrots were originally purple in colour.
  • During the 1600s, tulips were so valuable in Holland that their bulbs were worth more than gold. The craze was called tulip mania and caused the crash of the Dutch economy.
  • The baobab tree found in Africa can store 1,000 to 120,000 litres of water in its swollen trunk.
  • Oak trees don’t produce acorns until they are 50 years old.
  • Caffeine serves the function of a pesticide in a coffee plant.
  • At over 2000 kilometres long, The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth.
  • The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley’s gum.

We found these 20 amazing facts about plants. Plants can be dangerous, they’re smarter than we think and there are much more details about plants we don’t know yet – until today. They never disappoint to amaze us human beings. Here you go!

1) 85% of plant life is found in the ocean.

2) Lots of plants are used as dyes. You can colour cloth with stewed onion skin, tea bags or walnut juice. One of the oldest blue dyes comes from a plant called ‘woad’ that has been used since Neolithic times – more than 6,000 years ago.

3) Brazil is named after a tree.

4) Stress relief can be achieved with chemicals in freshly-cut grass, according to scientists.

5) 70,000 plant species are utilized for medicine.

6) 2009 is the year scientists discovered a plant in the Philippines that is capable of devouring rats.

7) More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest.

8) Dandelion is completely edible, from the petals to the roots.

9) The first certified botanical garden was founded by Pope Nicholas III in the Vatican City in 1278 AD.

10) Trees are the longest-living organisms on earth.

11) The earth has more than 80,000 species of edible plants.

12) A herb is specifically from the leaf of a plant, and a spice is from the seed, berry, stem, bark, root or bulb.

13) The Poison Garden at England’s Alnwick Garden is filled with plants that can kill you.

14) The smell of freshly-cut grass is actually a plant distress call.

15) Plants can recognise their siblings and give them preferential treatment, competing less for valuable resources like root space than when surrounded by plants that are strangers.

16) Plants dislike human noise.

17) All teas (black, green and white) come from the same plant, camellia sinensis. The only thing that differs is the processing methods.

18) There is a plant in Australia known as the “Suicide Plant” because the effect of its sting can last for years, and its pain is so unbearable that people have killed themselves after touching it.

19) Plants may be deaf, but they can feel, see, smell and remember, according to plant biologist Daniel Chamovitz.

20) 3.34m is the height of the world’s tallest recorded basil plant.

Anything else we should know?

Discovered by Ulrike Schulz | Founder of Secrets of Green

  • Cocoa Beans Facts

    Do you like chocolate? Most people do. The smooth, brown candy is deliciously sweet. Not all chocolate tastes exactly alike, but it all tastes like chocolate, doesn’t it?

  • Herbs Facts

    Herbs are plants with leaves, seeds and flowers that are eaten or used to flavor foods. Herbs have been used by people since the beginning of time.

  • Cucumbers Facts

    Cucumbers are members of the melon family. This means cucumbers are actually a fruit instead of a vegetable. Cucumbers are green and are shaped like a tube.

  • Why Leaves Change Color Facts

    If you live in certain parts of the world (especially the middle and eastern parts of the United States) you will see something happen each fall (autumn) that is almost magical.

  • Flowering plants Facts

    Aren’t flowers pretty? They come in just about every color in the rainbow and many of them smell almost as good as they look.

  • Life Cycle of a Plant Facts

    Where do plants come from? From seeds, of course, you say. But where do seeds come from? And do all plants come from seeds?

  • Tomato Plants Facts

    Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Wait! A fruit? Yes, that’s right—tomatoes are actually a fruit—not a vegetable.

  • Banana Facts

    Bananas are a very popular fruit that you can find in your local stores. They are very popular to eat and also bring many health benefits.

  • Apples Facts

    Apples are a fruit and one of the most popular foods in the world. The reasons apples are so popular are

  • Structure of a Plant Facts

    There are many different kinds of plants. Some have flowers. Some don’t. Some give us fruits. Some give us vegetables.

  • Carnivorous Facts

    The word carnivorous means to need meat (from animals) for survival. So that means carnivorous plants are plants that eat bugs and even small animals like frogs. What! Are there really plants that eat?

  • Cactus Facts

    A cactus is a plant that grows where the soil is dry and rocky—most usually in the desert. A cactus doesn’t have leaves like other plants do. A cactus has spines or thorns.

  • Photosynthesis Facts

    What do you do when you get hungry? You ask your mom for something to eat, don’t you? Or you may even go to the kitchen and fix yourself something to eat. Well, plants get hungry just like you and I do.

  • Plant Defenses Facts

    When we look at a pretty flower sitting on top of a thin, green stem, we don’t usually think of them as being strong or tough, do we? No, we think of them as fragile and pretty and we are careful not to tear its leaves or petals.

  • Poisonous Plants Facts

    Plants are a very important part of nature. Plants release oxygen into the air so that we can breathe. Plants provide food for animals and people.

  • Non-Flowering Plants Facts

    The world is filled with lots and lots of plants. Some plants have vegetables growing on them. Some plants give us flowers that are pretty and smell good.

  • Peanuts Facts

    Peanuts are one of the world’s most popular snacks, and peanut butter is one of the most popular foods in the entire world.

  • Seed Germination Facts

    Plants come from seeds. This happens when the seeds are planted in the ground and sprout (begin to grow). Before a seed can sprout, it must go through a process called germination.

  • Rainforest Facts

    A rainforest is a forest that gets lots and lots of rain—over 200 inches a year! Some rainforests get as much as 400 inches of rain a year! It is always warm in the rainforest, too.

  • Potatoes Facts

    Potatoes are a vegetable that is also one of the most energy-giving foods there is. This is because of the starch and carbohydrates in potatoes.

  • Onions Facts

    Onions are a type of vegetable that are really a member of the bulb family. That is because the part of the onion that is most important is the bulb (ball) that grows under the ground.

What Is A Native Plant: Learn About Native Plant Benefits In The Garden

Native plants have a reputation for being the plain Janes of the plant world. That is simply not true. You can enjoy a beautiful garden while protecting the health of local ecosystems when you plant natives. More people than ever are filling their garden with native plants. This is partly a result of the new awareness of the hazards of exotics and invasive plants. Gardeners are more concerned about using environmentally responsible practices these days, and that includes using native plants.

The definition of “native plant” depends on who you ask. Even the government agencies responsible for the protection of the environment define it differently. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines native plant as “A species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.” Some state agencies have more restrictive guidelines, maintaining that native plants are those that existed in the area before the first European contact.

Gardeners have to decide for themselves how the term “native plant” applies in their own garden. While some include plants that are native anywhere in the United States, others only include plants native to local ecosystems or the immediate area.

Native Plant Benefits

Here are a few of the benefits of using native plants:

  • Native plants protect the genetic purity of plants in local ecosystems. If you plant exotics that can breed with local plants, the resulting hybrid can damage local habitats.
  • Native plants are adapted to the local climate. Climate means more than just hardiness zones. It also includes humidity, rainfall, and other, more subtle factors.
  • Some native plants have a high resistance and tolerance to local insect populations.

Native Plant Facts

While native plants have an advantage over non-natives in a localized area, not all will thrive in your garden. No matter how hard you try, cultivated gardens never quite recreate conditions in the wild. Everything from the proximity of lawns and structures to the way we care for our garden has the potential to affect plant growth.

Gardens often contain fill dirt or topsoil brought in from other areas to level the soil and bury construction debris. Don’t be afraid to experiment with using native plants in gardens, but don’t expect 100 percent success.

Not all native plants are attractive or desirable. Some are poisonous, have unpleasant smells, or attract clouds of insects. Some plants protect themselves from hot or dry spells by going dormant — something we don’t want to see in a flowerbed. A few natives, such as poison ivy and thorny brambles, are downright annoying or dangerous.

Native Plant Myths And Facts

We Californians live in a biodiversity hotspot. Our variety of climates from below sea level to the highest peaks enables us to host the largest flora of any state in the country. More than a third of California plant species are found nowhere else on the planet! It is these same plants that our wildlife has depended on for countless generations.

This plant and animal diversity is both a gift and a preservation challenge. Unfortunately myths about native plants discourage many from growing them in their yards. Here are six myths along with the facts.

MYTH: Native plants are nothing but brush.

FACT: Dozens of definitely non-brushy, attractive, easily grown native beauties thrive in Foothill gardens, including the delicate columbine, stunning matilija poppy and stately oaks. As awareness grows, more garden-worthy natives are appearing in nurseries and on garden tours.

MYTH: Roadside ditches usually contain native plants.

FACT: When a neighbor asked me to identify the “natives” growing in her ditch, they turned out to be castor beans, originally from Africa, and of no value to our California wildlife. The plants in ditches are usually exotic (non-native) escapees from nearby gardens or bullying non-native invasives like yellow-flowered Scotch broom, yellow star thistle and grasses such as foxtail and Bermuda.

MYTH: Native plants will take over your yard.

FACT: Unlike “alien” plants, natives are far more likely to be kept in check by local conditions. Plants from other parts of the world often spread rampantly when they are free of the natural checks and balances, such as the insects, browsing critters, and less hospitable climates found in their homelands. Even nursery-grown exotics can become thugs; periwinkle (Vinca major) and English ivy are familiar examples.

MYTH: Natives need no water.

FACT: Just like non-native plants, natives need regular water while their roots are becoming established during their first year in the yard. Moisture needs thereafter depend on their natural habitat, which can vary from shady, stream-side settings to sizzling hillsides. Many natives are drought tolerant once established and can be quite attractive in our gardens.

MYTH: Learn about native plants by reading gardening magazines and catalogs.

FACT: Most of the natives featured in catalogs and magazines are native to other parts of the country. Your best bet are plants that are indigenous to our own Foothills. Native plant sales are a good source for local natives.

MYTH: Native plants bring in undesirable bugs.

FACT: Most insects create only minor, often unnoticed plant damage. The insects that eat native plants are the very ones that best support our wildlife. Without these insects, song birds would have nothing to feed their young and frogs and lizards would starve. Without pollinators our tables would lack many fruits and vegetables and even farm animals would have less to eat.

For the occasional genuinely troublesome garden pest, use integrated pest management techniques found at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/

FACT: Native plants are a critical link to restoring the environment and keeping our wildlife alive. If we integrate a few natives into our yards each year, together our gardens can become ecosystems of refuge for irreplaceable birds, pollinators, and innumerable other creatures.

For ideas and help with growing natives, visit www.cnps.org/cnps/grownative/ To better understand why natives are essential to our wellbeing, read “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens” by Douglas Tallamy. For native gardening pointers, try “California Native Gardening: A Month-By-Month Guide” by Helen Popper. Both books can be found at the Tuolumne County Public Library.

Vera Strader finds that bees and hummingbirds are especially attracted to the native plants in her yard.

Important Reasons to Use Native Plants

  • Engage and Connect
    • About Us
      • Beginnings
        • An In-Depth Analysis
      • Organizational Structure
      • Our Staff
      • QEW in Practice
      • Vision and Witness
      • Annual Reports
        • 2018 Annual Report
        • 2017 Annual Report
        • 2016 Annual Report
        • 2015 Annual Report
        • 2014 Annual Report
        • 2013 Annual Report
    • Get Involved
      • Join QEW!
    • Our Publications
      • BeFriending Creation
      • Pamphlets for Sharing
      • Earthcare for Friends
      • Earthcare Curriculum for Children
      • Quaker Eco-Bulletin
    • Read Our Journal: BeFriending Creation
    • Apply for a Mini-Grant
      • QEW Mini-Grant Criteria
      • Apply for a QEW Mini-Grant
      • Completed Mini Grant Projects
    • Upcoming Events
    • Get Resources for Your Meeting
      • Get QEW graphics to share
      • Earthcare Witness Toolkit for Meetings
      • Get Seeds of Violence, Seeds of Hope, Vol I, II, and III
      • Interviews with QEW Friends
  • Deepen Spirituality
    • Ecological Integrity and the Light Within
    • Friends, Slavery, and the Earth
    • The Spiritual Basis of Earthcare
    • Truth Is Something That Happens
    • Unleashing Holy Energy, Witnessing for God’s Green Kingdom
    • Why a Specifically Quaker Testimony on the Environment?
  • Living Our Testimonies
    • Leadings and Concerns
      • Climate Change and Global Warming
      • Genetic Engineering
      • Indigenous Peoples
    • Living in Right Relationship
      • Earthcare, Energy, and the Right Use of Things
      • Practicing Earth Activism
    • Peace on Earth, Peace with Earth
    • Sustainability and Truth
  • Speak Out
    • Fossil Free Friends
      • Australian Quakers move funds from the “big four” banks
      • Friends’ History of Investing with Integrity
      • Global Divestment Day: Epistle from QEW’s Sustainability, Faith, and Action Working Group
      • Is it Time for a Screen for Fossil Fuel Companies? Suggested Queries
      • Divestment as a Strategy of Hope
      • Starting the Climate Change Conversation: First Steps for Friend’s Communities
      • A Young Friend appeals to her school on divestment
      • Beyond Divestment to Reinvestment
      • The Worst Offenders
      • Divestment FAQ
      • Quaker Affiliated Colleges and Schools
      • Resources
      • Minutes and Epistles on Divestment
    • Friendly Landscapes
      • Birds, Plants, and Insects: What They Need
      • Shrinking or Transforming Your Lawn
      • Introduction to Permaculture
      • Ecological Principles of Permaculture
      • Planning a Permaculture Garden
      • Practical Permaculture Methods: Start Today!
      • Important Reasons to Use Native Plants
      • Choosing Native Plants for Pollinators in Your Area
      • Planning, Planting, and Managing Your Butterfly and Pollinator Garden
      • Books and Websites for Pollinator Gardens and Larger Native Plantings
    • Fracking 101
      • What is hydraulic fracturing, exactly?
      • Water in fracking
      • Chemicals in fracking
      • Methane Leaking
      • Flaring
      • Communities damaged
      • Greenhouse gases
      • The myth of a century of natural gas in the U.S.
      • Resources
      • Glossary
    • Friends Moving to 100% Renewable Energy
      • Learn how 100% renewable looks in practice
      • We’ve switched to 100% renewable energy!
      • 100% Renewable Energy Resources
      • Host a film festival on Energy Options
    • QEW Speaks Out: Statements & Minutes
      • QEW Statement of Support for Actions at Standing Rock, Sept 2016
      • Recommendations for all Friends
      • A Shared Quaker Statement: Facing the Challenge of Climate Change
      • NEYM 2016 Yearly Meeting Minute on Climate Change
      • Comment Suggestions on Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Keystone XL Pipeline
      • QEW Minute on Nuclear Power
      • QEW Participates in Revisions to FCNL Policy Statement
      • Statement on Unity with Diversity
      • Statement to ECOSOC on Science, Technology, and Innovation
      • QEW Statement on the Doctrine of Discovery
      • QEW Statement to the U.S. State Department on UNDRIP
    • Minutes from Friends Meetings
      • Minneapolis Friends Meeting
      • Divestment Minute from Friends Meeting at Cambridge
      • Annapolis Friends Meeting Climate Change minute
      • Baltimore Yearly Meeting
      • Community Friends Meeting in Cincinnati
      • Southeastern Yearly Meeting
      • Canadian Yearly Meeting
      • Illinois Yearly Meeting
      • Netherlands Yearly Meeting
      • New England Yearly Meeting
      • Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting
      • Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
      • Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association
      • Acadia, Maine Friends Meeting
      • Chena Ridge Friends Meeting, Fairbanks, Alaska
      • Community Monthly Meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio
      • Lexington, Kentucky Friends Meeting
      • Madison, Wisconsin Monthly Meeting
      • Patuxent, Maryland Friends Meeting
      • Princeton Monthly Meeting
      • Reading Monthly Meeting
      • Santa Barbara Friends Meeting
      • Stony Run and Homewood Friends Meeting
      • Swarthmore Friends Meeting
      • Wellsboro Monthly Meeting
      • Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting Minute on Climate Change and Divestment
    • United Nations Working Group
      • QEW’s Work at the UN
      • QEW-led Earthcare Coalition seeks your help
    • Share Your Quaker Witness for Climate Justice!
    • Spiritual Ecology: My Journey and Our Journey
    • Ecology & Public Policy
    • Friends Testimonies and Economics (FTE)
    • Population Resources
      • Quaker PopOffsets
    • QEW on International Public Policy
    • QEW’s Relationship with FCNL & Other Friends Groups
      • Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF)
      • Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC)
      • Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer

1058 ratings

Tuesday – January 23, 2007

From: Boston, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Best of Smarty, General Botany
Title: Definition of what constitutes a native plant
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Hello, I am doing research concerning “native plants” for the Northeast. I am “befuddled” as I am finding conflicting definitions for what constitutes a native plant. Do you have a good definition. Thank you so much for your time.

ANSWER:

Although the term “Native Plant” has become firmly entrenched in the botanical, horticultural and, to some extent, the public vocabulary there is surprisingly little consensus on its definition despite widespread use (see definitions below).

Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” definition of native plant, although a closer inspection reveals that there are some common threads shared by most. The first common thread is the human factor. The human element is either implied in statements like “occurred, grows or evolved naturally” or stated explicitly in statements like “not introduced by man, without direct or indirect human intervention, or prior to European contact”. Native plant definitions that exclude humans or arbitrarily assign a point in time before which (but not after which) human intervention is allowed are, by default, definitions that assume humans are not part of the natural world. Nevertheless, the human exception appears to be a key and, sometimes, difficult to document, criteria when assigning native status to a plant.

The second common thread is place. Each definition defines a native plant as occupying a particular area, region, habitat or ecosystem to distinguish native from non-native. This element introduces geographic confusion to a native plant definition. To whit, a species can be native to the United States (but non-native to a specific state) or native to a state (but non-native to a particular area within that state). By this line of reasoning, all species are native to planet earth (but may be non-native to any particular place on the planet).

In my opinion the best native plant definitions are the ones that incorporate the provenance and evolutionary history of a plant group or lineage. Take, for example, the definition offered by Wasowski in The American Gardener in 1998, “Native plants should be defined as those that have evolved and adapted to a specific location and have remained genetically unaltered by humans.” This definition takes into account time and place, as well as the human element. More importantly, it implies a connection between generations through a shared evolutionary ancestry.

So what is a native plant? It is actually pretty simple to summarize Wasowki to define a native plant as … a plant that occurs naturally in the place where it evolved.

Native Plant Definitions

A population of plants within a defined geographic area that exist there without direct or indirect human introduction (Andrea De-Long Amay after lunch with Joe and Damon)

One that exists in a given region through non-human introduction, directly or indirectly (Andrea De-Long Amaya, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

A plant occurring naturally in an area and not introduced by man; indigenous (GardenWeb)

With respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred, or currently occurs in that ecosystem (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

A Native plant is one that occurred naturally has existed for many years in an area. These plants can be trees, flowers, grasses or any other plant. (Wikipedia)

All indigenous, terrestrial, and aquatic plant species that evolved naturally in an ecosystem (US Forest Service)

A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention (USDA and (US National Arboretum)

Any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality (The Garden Helper)

Native plants are those that evolved naturally in North America. More specifically, native plants In a particular area are those that were growing naturally in the area before humans introduced plants from distant places. In eastern and central North America, native plants typically grew in communities with species adapted to similar soil, moisture, and weather conditions. Some of the widespread communities included oak-hickory-chestnut and beech-maple forests, tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, and freshwater marshes. Additional communities occupied specialized niches, including savannahs, fens, bogs, flood plains and alpine areas. (Wild Ones)

A native plant species is one “that occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions” (Federal Native Plant Conservation Committee, 1994) A native plant, within a specified geographical region of interest, is a plant species (or other plant taxon) currently or historically present there without direct or indirect human intervention. (Larry Morse, L.E.M. Natural Diversity) Any plant which is a member of a species which was present at a given site prior to European contact (California Native Plant Society)

Wasowski, Andy. “Provenance, defining our terms.(native plants).” The American Gardener 77.6 (Nov-Dec 1998): NA.

More General Botany Questions

Halophytic biofilter plants native to Wisconsin
July 12, 2013 – I am trying to design a biofilter using native WI plants. These plants must be very salt tolerant and low maintenance (as this biofilter will be used to treat storm water runoff from a salt shed), so …
view the full question and answer

Yellowing of palm tree leaves
May 14, 2008 – I want to know about palm trees. The leaves are turning yellow.
view the full question and answer

Half-life of the insecticide imidacloprid
March 07, 2011 – How long do systemic insecticides such as imidacloprid (Merit) remain active in nursery grown plants? Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed)is frequently grown with imidacloprid to prevent…
view the full question and answer

Comments on article in Austin paper
January 22, 2012 – Why can’t we comment on your piece in the Statesman? It says no comments possible at the bottom.
view the full question and answer

Disappearing sunlight in Phoenix, AZ
September 29, 2009 – I live in a condo in Phoenix, AZ with a north facing patio that goes out about 10 feet and is 20 feet wide. During the summer months there is a span of 1 foot in the front that goes the 20 foot length…
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Native plants provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife, while contributing greatly to healthy soil and water in urban and rural areas. Below is a quick list of seven good things native plants do or provide. For much more detailed information on native plants and where you can obtain them, be sure to check out our Native Plant Resources section!

Native plants help you use less fertilizers. Vast amounts of fertilizers are applied to lawns. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen (the main components of fertilizers) run off into lakes and rivers causing excess algae growth. This depletes oxygen in our waters, harms aquatic life and interferes with recreational uses.

Native plants help you use less pesticides. Nationally, over 70 million pounds of pesticides are applied to lawns each year. Pesticides run off lawns and can contaminate rivers and lakes. People and pets in contact with chemically treated lawns can be exposed to pesticides.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense), a native groundcover – low-growing with small bluish-purple to blue-violet flowers.
A Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta) butterfly on some Douglas aster flowers. Native plants are very important for native and migratory pollinators.
Broad-leaf shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) has an interesting “inside-out” bloom and is summer deciduous, dying back to the ground after the rains cease.
By including a variety of plants of different sizes and heights in your yard, you can mimic the natural features that provide food, habitat and structure for wildlife.
A variety of natives makes for a beautiful groundcover layer that will require very little maintenance over time!

Native plants help you use less water. The modern lawn requires significant amounts of water to thrive. In urban areas, lawn irrigation uses as much as 30% of the water consumption on the East Coast and up to 60% on the West Coast. The deep root systems of many native Midwestern plants increase the soil’s capacity to store water. Native plants can significantly reduce water runoff and, consequently, flooding.

Native plants help you keep the air around you cleaner. Natural landscapes do not require mowing or very much maintenance. Lawns, however, must be mowed regularly. About forty million lawnmowers consume 200 million gallons of gasoline per year, while overall, gas-powered garden tools emit 5% of the nation’s air pollution. One gas-powered lawnmower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car. Excessive carbon from the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming, while native plants sequester (remove) carbon from the air.

Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife and support pollinators. Native plants attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources. Closely mowed lawns, on the other hand, are of little use to most wildlife!

Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage. In the U.S., approximately 20 million acres of lawn are cultivated, covering more land than any single crop. Unfortunately, there are very few benefits to native wildlife from a manicured lawn. Likewise, gardens that mostly feature non-native species of plants are often of little benefit to wildlife. Natural landscaping is an opportunity to reestablish diverse native plants, thereby inviting the birds and butterflies back home.

Native plants have been shown to save money in many different ways. One study by Applied Ecological Services (Brodhead, WI) of larger properties estimates that over a 20 year period, the cumulative cost of maintaining a prairie or a wetland totals $3,000 per acre versus $20,000 per acre for non-native turf grasses. The economic benefits of native plants can also be measured against the damage that certain non-native plants do. According to another study, the presence of invasive species (including animals), costs Oregon an estimated $125 million a year1!

Explore over 50 plants in our Native Plant Database!

1Cusack, Harte, Chan, “The Economics of Invasive Species.” Prepared for the Oregon Invasive Species Council. Oregon State University 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *