Why Plant Natives?
A plant is considered native to the area where you live if it existed there naturally before any exotic ones came to California with European immigrants. True natives have existed in specific ecosystems for millennia, evolving with insects and other animal life.
Inland meadows, wetlands, redwood forests, and coastal bluffs are among the many biomes in Sonoma County where native plants can be found. In each ecosystem, some plant species overlap into neighboring areas while others thrive only in certain limited conditions.
Unique Food Sources
- Native species, unfortunately, are frequently crowded out of an ecosystem when well-suited exotic species become entrenched.
- In each native ecosystem, non-native plants are not nearly as efficient as native species at converting a plant’s energy up the food chain for use by native fauna.
Critical Food Supply
- Loss of native plants decreases the food sources native insects and other invertebrates need for egg-laying and larval feeding to produce future generations; this in turn decreases the food supply for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
- If the appropriate food and nesting plants are not available, the population of a particular insect or vertebrate may decline dramatically or will move on to a more suitable location. This, in turn, affects the populations of other wildlife. Each species in every habitat contributes to the overall health of an ecosystem.
- Large swaths of natural habitat have been altered and/or destroyed in the past two centuries, and urban spread and infrastructure continue to fragment those remaining.
- Home gardeners can play an outsized role in the preservation of insect and wildlife populations by creating suitable pockets of habitat space in cities, town, and rural areas.
- Selecting which native plants to include in your garden may involve several decisions.
- Is this plant suitable for the microclimate where you live?
- What role will a particular species play in a landscape—shrub, tree, perennial—as a food, nesting, or resting site?
- What food will it produce for wildlife—pollen, nectar, seeds, fruit?
- For optimum impact, choose native species with varying bloom sizes and shapes, species that will bloom throughout the entire calendar year, and will attract diverse birds, bees, and other insects—the primary goal for focusing on native species.
- Select a variety of plant types that vary in shape and size. A mixture of groundcovers, perennials, small shrubs, and trees supply three dimensions of diverse wildlife support.
- Focus on a year-round food supply and a permanent water source to accompany foliage plants in your garden space.
- Include large stones, discarded logs and snags, and clumps of native bunch grass for habitat support to increase the biodiversity of fauna visiting your garden space.
- Provide an area with exposed soil cleared of heavy mulch for native bees to nest.
- Maintain a vibrant habitat space by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides.
- For additional reading and inspiration on this topic, consult Bringing Nature Home(2008) by Douglas Tallamy. He authored the statement: “Gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife.”
- https://calscape.org/ supported by the California Native Plant Society, is a reliable and helpful source for native species requirements and attributes.
- Calscape Garden Planner aides in selecting plants.