Here are a few of the many reasons for using native plants in your landscape.
BIODIVERSITYAdding native plants to your landscape obviously increases the plant diversity of your landscape, but, more importantly, it leads to greater overall biodiversity; the variety and abundance of wildlife will increase in your landscape. The key factor in improving biodiversity is the increase in insect quantities and diversity that results from using native plants. Insects are the primary transporter of the energy harnessed and stored within plants to the species higher in the food chain. Besides the common generalists insects such as aphids, thrips, scale, or the non-native earwig, most insect species are constrained to eating a certain genera or family of plants. That means for a vast majority of the insect species that reside in North America the non-native plant species in your landscape might as well be plastic. These non-native ornamentals may be attractive to humans, but essentially they are just taking up space and providing little ecological function.
I know many like to think humans dominate the Earth, and we do in many ways, but in terms of biomass we are still quite the minority. It seems we are continually striving to remove as many other species as possible in order to create space for ourselves, but the current reality is that insects still rule the animal kingdom. It is reported that approximately 80% of the animal species documented on our planet are insects, and that does not include the many new insect species discovered each year. Now in terms of weight, it is estimated that 90% of the terrestrial animal biomass on Earth is insects and spiders. We must recognize the importance of using native plants in our landscapes to support thriving populations of insects. For example, a little known fact is that over 95% of our upland bird species feed their young exclusively on insects and spiders. If your landscape cannot provide the required quantities of insects and spiders, birds will not be able to successfully raise their young to the fledging stage. Every caterpillar living on a host plant in your native planting increases the odds of your local birds being able produce a new generation.
Do you want more butterflies and birds? Do you want an increase in the wildlife in your landscape? Plant natives!