Why Landscape with Native Plants?
Michigan's native plants and plant communities are part of our natural heritage and should be preserved for future generations. By one estimate, 25 percent of Michigan's plants will be extinct by 2050, as the result of loss of habitat due to development and invasion by aggressive non-native plants—and this estimate doesn't include the possible effects of global warming. By cultivating native plants in your yard, you can help preserve the existing diversity of native vegetation and wildlife.
Our native plants are beautiful and can greatly enhance conventional landscapes with their distinctive foliage, graceful forms, and colorful flowers and fruits. When native plants are used to replicate prairies, woodlands, or wetlands—for example, in prairie gardens or restorations, woodland gardens or created woodlands—they offer a dramatic and ever-changing spectacle.
Native plants are easy to grow and maintain because they, unlike plants from Europe and Asia and even from other regions of our own continent, are well adapted to our soils and climate, with its extremes of weather. Plants native to our state will thrive in your yard without fertilizer or pesticides. Once established, they will even require less water, thanks to their extensive root systems, than non-native plants do.
Native plants provide food and shelter for the wildlife with which they have evolved over millennia, and recent research is showing that the support for wildlife provided by native vegetation is better than that offered by non-native plants. By landscaping with native plants, you will attract butterflies, birds, and other animals to your yard and provide them with exactly what they need: for butterflies, not only nectar, but also host plants for their caterpillars; for birds, the right kinds of berries and insects at the right times of year. With increasing development and disappearance of natural habitat, our yards and rural properties become crucial to the survival of species.
Landscaping with native plants not only lowers water use; it improves water quality. Native plantings—prairie and woodland gardens, rain gardens—are much more effective than lawn grass in slowing down stormwater and filtering out chemicals contained in it. The deep roots of many native species are able to absorb, hold, and gradually release this water—water that would otherwise rush into nearby bodies of water, eroding their banks and delivering pollution. Native plantings also help recharge groundwater.
Landscaping with native plants helps reduce greenhouse gases and other factors of climate change. Many of our native plants are able to store carbon in their deep and extensive root systems, thus permanently removing it from the air. Also, a yard in which native plants have replaced all or most of the lawn uses less fossil fuel and produces less carbon dioxide than a conventional yard, whose upkeep requires frequent use of power equipment and petroleum products.