Native plants are plants that have adapted to the geography, rainfall levels, and climate of a particular region. Native plants occur in communities, that is, they have evolved together with other plants. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies. Who doesn't like those?
The reason you might want to consider incorporating native plants into your landscape is that they provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance area to your landscape, while benefiting the environment. Native plants, once established, save time and money by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water, and lawnmowers.
Which plants attract birds and butterflies?
For song birds: sunflowers, blazing star, white prairie clover, compass plant, prairie dock, big bluestem, downy serviceberry, hackberry, dogwood, juniper, elderberry, and hawthorn.
For hummingbirds: columbine, jewelweed, native phlox, native honey-suckle, and cardinal flower.
For butterflies: milkweed, aster, purple cone-flower, blazing star, native phlox, black-eyed Susan, dogbane, New Jersey tea, coreopsis, joe-pye weed, goldenrod, vervain, and ironweed.
Useful native plant info links:
• Wild Ones Natural Landscapers is a 23-year-old non-profit organization devoted to restoring native ecologies and promoting environmentally sensitive horticultural practices.
• The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has a comprehensive list of resources for every state.
• National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program tells the basics for starting a backyard wildlife habitat.
• The Environmental Protection Agency's Green Landscaping site has information about reducing energy consumption through the use of native plant landscapes.
• Ken Robertson's write-up on the tallgrass prairie of Illinois features excellent photos of many dry prairie species.
• There's lots of info about milkweeds at the Monarch Watch site.
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