"A society grows great when old [wo/]men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." — Greek Proverb.
Native species are plants, 🍄︎ fungi or 🐟︎ 🐢︎🐇︎ animals that have been in that location for a while, presumably are part of the local ecosystem, and do not damage the environment, economy or human health.
The alternatives to natives are exotic/introduced/alien/non-indigenous/non-native and
The effects of replacing exotic landscaping with natives is dramatic. For a few years, I had seen an increase in the number of butterflies and birds in our yard. I expected that—my wife (with some muscle from me) had been slowly replacing some of our plants with natives. Nothing radical, but if a non-native died or was doing poorly, we replaced it with a native. Part of our lawn had morphed into a small prairie. Some plants got moved. One day, I realized it had been three years since we had put out the traps for those big green bugs. Weird. I looked around, and saw that we had crossed some threshold, maybe from 30% natives to 50% natives, and we no longer had any issues with the annoying green bug? Apparently, you don't need perfection to restore some balance to your local ecosystem. Extraordinary!
To learn more about using native plants in your landscaping
To plan your landscape layers
To hire a native-friendly landscaper
To trade or buy native plants or seeds
Site preparation, construction, planting and maintenance
To plan your landscape layers
Some people plan their landscaping to attract local charismatic megafauna and songbirds, by using native plants that will feed them directly (via their fruit, flowers or leaves) or indirectly (by feeding local insects, that will then feed your desired animals or their young).
Some people plan their landscaping to enhance ecosystem diversity and complexity.
"Begin with as much biodiversity as you can fit or afford." — Steve Keto.
Both groups may plan out their landscaping using several layers:
- Canopy trees layer, consisting of original mature trees.
Please leave old dying and dead trees standing, to provide food and nesting space for woodpeckers and other birds and animals.
- Small trees layer, forming the "middle story" of the woodland plant community.
In North America's Midwest, native examples include
American hophornbeam / ironwood Ostrya virginiana
American hornbeam / ironwood Carpinus caroliniana
flowering dogwood Cornus
witch hazel Hamamelis virginiana
. Or more industrial, could be nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
- Shrub layer of bushes. This author's family removed a lot of this in our backyard, to make room for the other layers.
- Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables, herbs and forbs. These may be composed of:
Annuals. Easiest to move around and play with.
Biannuals. Can move around.
Short-lived transient perennials.
Conservative perennials. Be patient.
- Ground cover layer of plants that spread horizontally.
- Rhizosphere or underground layer of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
- Vertical layer of vines and climbers. Master them.
- Fungi. You need good soil—soil that is alive!
- Nitrogen fixers, somewhere in the above.