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What are Native Plants?

USDA definition of a native plant:  A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem.

Note: The word native should always be used with a geographic qualifier (for example- a native to New England).

Only uncultivated plants found in this country before European settlement are considered to be native to the United States. Native plants are uncultivated plants that have been at this location before the Europeans came.

A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction 

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It is important to note that there are plants from Europe which have been here for hundreds of years but they still are not part of the balanced ecosystem here.

Why are Native Plants Important?

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals.

Common horticultural plants in general do not provide as much energetic rewards for their visitors and often require insect pest control, watering and fertilization to survive.

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Native plants are part of an ecosystem that developed together over millions of years. Native plants have formed mutualistic relationships with other native organisms such as bacteria, fungi, higher plants, and wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat.

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How do I know that a plant is native?

How do i know if a plant is native to my state or not?  There are sevral websites on the internet that are the main source.  

The USDA PLANTS Database is a comprehensive and up-to-date source for native plant information. Here, you can search for plants by scientific and common name. The site indicates whether the plant is native to the lower 48 states and the plant's distribution. It also provide the legal status of the plant as well as other information.

USDA database:

Another comprehensive site for plant distribution is BONAP: The Biota of North America Program-North American Vascular Flora. The site provides distribution maps of the plants 

BONAP home page   BONAP search by genus-->county level maps   BONAP search by genus-->state level maps 

Lilium philadelphicum var. philadelphicum - Wood Lily Lilium philadelphicum var. philadelphicum - Wood Lily Lilium philadelphicum var. philadelphicum - Wood Lily

Wood Lily - Lilium philadelphicum var. philadelphicum . Click here to learn more about this rare plant..




All text & photos by Millie & Hubert Ling -- --