Grow Healthy with Native Plants
Why native plants?
Gardening with native plants is a healthy choice for your family and for Howard County. Native plants:
- Require few to no fertilizers or pesticides to flourish, reducing the toxic load on your immediate environment.
- Require less water to survive and grow, helping us to conserve water during our hot, droughty Maryland summers.
- Provide vital food and habitat to birds, pollinating insects, and other animals, helping to restore the balance we have tipped through extensive land development.
What is a native plant?
A native plant is a species that grows naturally in a given region without human cultivation or intervention. In North America, we consider a plant “native” if it was growing in a given region of the continent before European settlement.
What is a non-native plant?
Non-native plants are those that have been transported by humans to areas far from where these species originated. Many non-native plant species were deliberately transported by humans because of their economic or aesthetic value, but ohers “hitchhiked” or were moved accidentally—often with disastrous consequences to native ecosystems.
What is an invasive plant?
Not all non-native plants are considered invasive; a plant species is considered “invasive” when it:
- Reproduces rapidly, often by producing large numbers of seeds that survive to germinate.
- Spreads aggressively over large areas of the landscape, often by runners or rhizomes.
- Disperses seeds far from the parent plant by wind, water, wildlife, or human means.
Invasive plants (and animals) damage ecosystems in a variety of ways, but the single biggest threat they pose is a loss of diversity. Natural communities—like human communities—thrive on diversity. A diverse community of species that has evolved to use different resources in an area at different times and different ways is more resilient to disease, natural disasters, and other perturbations. Invasive species create monocultures (large areas colonized by a single plant species), crowding out native and often rare species and affecting many other plant and animal species that share their habitat.
How to help restore the balance of diversity
You can help restore diversity to our local ecological communities by doing two things:
- Remove invasive plant species where they already occur. Visit some of the references below to learn how to identify invasive species in your area. If invasives are already present on your property, consider removing them after consulting with a reputable resource to find out the best way to eradicate them.
- Choose Maryland native species for landscaping. Native alternatives to some common invasive plants listed below are beautiful, well adapted to our local Maryland conditions, and provide value to birds, beneficial insects, and other wildlife. Ask your local nursery about Maryland native plants and encourage them to stock natives.
|Invasive Species||Native Alternatives|
|Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)||arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), northern bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica), groundsel tree (Baccharis halmifolia)|
|privet (Ligustrum sp.)||inkberry (Ilex glabra), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), chokecherry (Aronia arbutifolia or melanocarpa)|
|bamboo (Bambusa, Phyllostachys, and Pseudosasa sp.)||big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)|
|common daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)||oxeye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), Canada lily (Lilium canadense), three-lobed coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba)|
|Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)||serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), redbud (Cercis canadensis), fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)|
|periwinkle (Vinca minor)||Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)|
|multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)||common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus), pasture rose (Rosa carolina)|
Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. Swearingen, J., Reshetiloff, K., et al. 2002. National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States: Identification and Control (CD-ROM). Bargeron, C.T., Moorhead, D.J., et al. 2003. USDA Forest Service – Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. Morgantown, WV. FHTET- 2003-08.
Invasive and Exotic Species of North America. http://www.invasive.org.
Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas. http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien.
Maryland Native Plant Society. http://www.mdflora.org.