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.
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 National Wildlife Magazine: Native, or Not So Much? Native plants transformed into flashy “nativars” may look pretty, but are they good for wildlife?
Coming Soon - Native Plant Finder
The National Wildlife Federation will be launching a new search tool for plants native to your zip code. Plants that support butterflies and other pollinators, provide food for caterpillars, and attract birds, all based on the research of Dr. Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware and in partnership with the United States Forest Service.