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Why plant natives?

What is a Native Plant?

Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people.


Today, it is popular to use exotic plants in home landscapes. These plants might be interesting, but they are often invasive (taking over native plantings) and they don't support local ecosystems.  


Native plants co-evolved alongside many native insects and birds. Insects, pollinators, birds, and the food we eat naturally depend on native plants and the ecosystems they create to survive. 


For example, native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgos, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. A single brood of beautiful chickadee require over 6,000 caterpillars to grow to maturity.


Even small home landscapes are vital to giving local ecosystems the support they need. You can help by replacing unused turf grass lawns with beds of beautiful native plants, replacing exotic plants with natives at every opportunity, and committing to using only native perennials, shrubs, and trees for all future plantings. You can also explore creating beds and areas specifically for native birds and pollinators.  

Beautiful & Low Maintenance.

  • Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.

  • Native plants require less water than lawns.

  • Native plants help reduce air pollution by reducing the need for mowing and by removing carbon from the air.

Prevents Soil Erosion & Restores Soil Quality.

  • The deep root systems of many native Midwestern plants increase the soil's capacity to store water. Native plants can significantly reduce water runoff and, consequently, flooding and erosion.

  • Preventing erosion creates and keeps nutrient-rich topsoil where it is accessible, rather than washed away in streams and rivers. 

Protects Birds, Butterflies, 

Pollinators & More.

  • Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.

  • Native plants promote biodiversity among plants and wildlife. 

Reconnects Us with Iowa Land & Heritage.

  • Learning about and caring for native plants promotes responsible stewardship of our natural heritage.

  • Native plants make your garden come alive by bringing native birds and beneficial insects to you. 

  • Native plants help you reconnect with nature and the land we live off of. 

Learn More with Educational Videos

The Nature of Native Plants.

Iowa State Professor Adam Janke discusses the value of native plants to Iowa wildlife and ecosystems in this recorded session from fall 2020. Includes several great tips for Iowa gardeners and landowners. 

Nature's Best Hope.

University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy discusses his new book Nature's Best Hopeabout the principles of native plant gardening at home. He shares several case studies of transformative native plantings in urban, suburban, and rural areas. 

Ready to Get Planting?

The University of Northern Iowa's Tallgrass Prairie Center keeps current lists of local nurseries and suppliers for native seeds. 

Get Planting
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