Create Your Living Landscape!
Getting Started on your Native Plant Journey
When we plant native plants that are adapted to our area, we are going a long way to restore biodiversity and support the wildlife that have co-evolved with them. If we want to support our local butterflies and moths, we need to plant their native host plant to feed them when they are in the caterpillar stage and nectar plants for the adult stage. Many butterflies and moths require very specific plants in order to develop into the beautiful creatures that live among us. Think of the Monarch and dependency on Milkweed leaves as a caterpillar, and the Zebra Swallowtail that requires leaves from the PawPaw tree. An excellent resource can be found on the Indiana Native Plant Society website, “The Science Explained”.
Recent research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgos, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. When it takes over 6,000 caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees, that is a significant difference. Native shrub and tree branching is suitable and preferable for our native nesting birds over exotic plant species, which often contributes to nest failure.
There are many options and beautiful plants to add to our landscape. Some people ask if adding native plants will look weedy in a landscape. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes to choose from! Remember too, that native plants include trees, shrubs and vines that offer many design options. When using native plants in a garden design, there should be no noticeable difference between a landscape planted with beautiful native trees, shrubs, vines and wildflowers than a landscape planted with exotics from other countries.
Unfortunately, many plants for sale in local and mail order nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants do not serve the our native wildlife or food web, and many of these plants have become invasive, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.
We have created some tips to help you get started. Visit the Plant Native Plants for Biodiversity Pledge & Yard Sign page for a tip sheet to help create your living landscape. Showcase your efforts by purchasing and displaying this beautiful yard sign by artist Ann Geise, https://anngeiseart.com.
What Native Plants will thrive in your area and provide the best resources for wildlife?
The National Wildlife Federation offers a database to Search by zip code to find plants that host the highest numbers of butterflies and moths to feed birds and other wildlife where you live. https://www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder/.
The National Audubon Society also offers online resources for you to search for the best plants by zip code as well as local resources and links to more information. https://www.audubon.org/native-plants
To find additional information on any native plant in North America, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center online database.
If you want to dig even deeper, visit BONAP, The Biota of North America Program: North America Vascular Flora site. You can search the North American Plant Atlas at the county level species maps by genus.
SER-Society for Ecological Restoration, Midwest Great Lakes Chapter – They offer excellent programs and other educational resources.
Helping Pollinators Helps Our Feathered Friends
Planting host plants, those that contain leaves that produce the right chemicals to feed growing caterpillars, support our native butterflies and moths in the caterpillar stage. This also creates food for birds. Most of our native birds only feed nestlings protein in the form of insects and caterpillars. Many baby birds can not thrive on seed at this stage of development. (some birds species will eat seed, like Goldfinches, but this is not the general rule).
We recommend planting straight native species, including trees and shrubs, to ensure that these chemicals are in balance to support the life cycle of butterflies and moths. We can make a difference, one landscape at a time!
For the Birds
Native Plants provides a feast for backyard bIrds, Audubon Society
Despite global conservation efforts, populations of many bird species have declined over the past century. Many of these species rely on forests for part of or all their lives. Although a variety of birds may require large tracts of forests for nesting, during other stages of their life cycle, they can benefit from small patches of forest scattered throughout a non-forested landscape. Our guide is written for landowners and managers of small forest patches seeking to improve habitat for birds. Recommendations are based on multiple research studies conducted in Ohio and similar small-patch forest ecosystems through the Midwest and eastern North America.
In 2022, OSU Student and Scholarship Intern Brooke Decubellis attended the Midwest Native Plant Conference and interviewed, filmed and photographed various attendees, speakers, trip leaders and vendors. Many of her photos are used on this website and other materials.
Brooke created a series of videos for us to share to help you learn more about native plants. We appreciate Brooke’s work and we are happy to share it with all of you.
She wrote: It has been a pleasure to learn more about the impact that landscaping decisions have on the environment. Please feel free to share these links in any way that you choose- the more people who know about the benefits of planting native, the better!” – Brooke.
“…chickadees need between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars to feed one brood of chicks. No caterpillars, no baby birds. Caterpillars need specific species of plants to feed on when they are young. 90% of insects that eat plants can only develop and reproduce on the native plants with which they share an evolutionary biology”. Doug Tallamy – Bringing Nature Home
“…reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibilities for all we have been given, for all we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue.” Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweetgrass
“To Bring Back the Pollinators, I Pledge to: 1. Grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall, 2. Protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants, 3. Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides, 4. Talk to my neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.” Xerces Society, Xerces Society