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Native and Invasive Plants

Native Plants

Put simply, native plants are plant species that have grown naturally in a region without first being introduced by humans. Each native plant plays an important role in local ecosystems because they live in symbiosis with other native plant and wildlife species. Additionally, native plants are adapted to live in certain climates and soil conditions, thus, increasing their resiliency in those conditions.

 

Native plant species are often threatened by urbanization, development projects, and by the introduction of invasive species. Only a few hundred years ago, what are now backyards, parking lots, shopping centers and neighborhoods used to be native forests, wetlands, prairies, and other thriving ecosystems. In part, colonization has destroyed entire ecosystems and has caused certain species to become extinct. Being said, humans have the opportunity to reintroduce native species and establish thriving ecosystems within a modern context.

 

There are many ways to reintroduce native plant species. Homeowners can plant native species in their gardens, farmers and landowners can plant pollinator habitats, local officials can build green infrastructure, and decision makers can work with local conservation districts to learn which plant species are most beneficial in specific environments.

The benefits of planting native plants are endless, but here are a few examples:

  • Native species are well-adapted to local conditions, thus they do not require much maintenance. 

  • Native plants establish strong root systems. This maintains a healthy soil structure, absorbs excess surface water, and helps reduce nutrient runoff.

  • Native plants are beautiful to look at. They can add value to a property.

  • Spaces planted with native plants are excellent pollinator habitats. These pollinators benefit our local agriculture systems.

  • Reestablish habitat for beneficial wildlife.

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Native Plant Riparian Buffer -  Jim Brueck, Owner Native Lakescapes, LLC

Examples of Common Native Species

Invasive Plants

An invasive species is 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health(1). Invasive species establish easily in existing ecosystems and then outcompete native species. The establishment of invasive species can destroy wildlife habitat, community infrastructure, outdoor recreation and tourism, agricultural yields and affect sensitive ecosystem balances.

Many invasive species were originally brought purposefully into an environment. However, after establishment, invasive species are often spread accidentally, making treatment and removal of invasive plants difficult.

Did you know, invasive species cost the United States more than $120 billion in damages per year.(2)

What can you do to help stop the spread of invasive species?

Early identification and detection of invasive species is the best management plan. Tackling invasive species is a community effort. Check out these resources for help identifying invasive plants:

1) An electronic guide for invasive plant identification 

2) Plant Identification Texts - download the free pdf versions, or order a hard copy.

3) Download the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network App - a community science based program participated in collecting invasive species field data. 

What is Allegan Conservation District doing about invasive species?

The Allegan Conservation District has partnered with the West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (WMCISMA) to employ experts in invasive species management. These experts are available to:

  • Help landowners identify and treat invasive plants on their land.

  • Team up with local agencies of government to treat invasive plants on public land.

  • Provide workshops for the general public to help inform them of the concerns regarding invasive plants, how to properly identify invasive plants, the tools available to the public for the management of invasive plants, and related topics.

  • Reach out to nurseries, landscapers, and others in the horticultural industry to educate them on the concerns regarding invasive plant species.

Examples of Common Invasive Plants