Read below as corps member Chloe shares about native plants!
What is a native plant?
Definition: A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses, lichen and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Why native plants?
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many non-native plants are also invasive, and crowd out our native plant species.
There is also a strong, ecological connection between native plants and the insect and animal world, especially the bird population. These populations have evolved with the native plant population and have become dependent upon certain plants. For example, an oak tree can support over 500 species of moths and butterflies, amongst other insects, while a Bradford Pear (a common ornamental non-native) supports fewer than 100. The more insects, the more bird food available. Most terrestrial birds feed their young insects. So although you might be providing food for the adult birds with ornamental non-native plants, you won’t be providing food for their babies, which will ultimately impact their population.
Native plants also contribute to healthier watersheds and cleaner rivers and streams. Their deep root systems stabilize soil and protect from soil erosion, and they mitigate the chemicals in water runoff from lawns and other sources. Rain gardens, a garden design that uses native plants, can capture excess runoff from houses and remove pollutants from street water. This means a healthier Susquehanna River and cleaner drinking water.
Why bring native plants to St Stephen’s?
Planting native plants at St Stephen’s is a simple, easy way to practice creation care in our neighborhood and watershed. Through the cultivation of native plants on our ground, we can reduce runoff of from street pavement into the Susquehanna River. By choosing hardy native plants that will flourish here, we will save money on our property’s landscaping budget. We will also increase pollinator and bird habitat, promoting a healthier ecosystem right here in the city.
Planting native plant gardens on our campus is also an opportunity to educate students at St Stephen’s School and other members of neighborhood about the environment and our watershed, while letting everyone in the city know that creation care is important to us.
How can we bring native plants to St Stephen’s?
Some suggested next steps are:
- Present a plan for bringing native plants in Spring 2020 St Stephen’s to Property Committee, that includes financial savings
- Work with the school on designing a native plant garden in Spring 2020 and on planning ways to sustain that garden each year
- Plant native plants in our gardens, and share the joy with your neighbors and members of St Stephen’s!
If you would like to be involved in planning a community event with a Master Gardener here at the Cathedral in the next few months, or be a part of any long or short term work of bringing native gardening to St Stephen’s, please contact Chloe Selles at email@example.com
Here is the copy of a “Native Gardening Guide,” which includes more information about the importance of native plants, a list of easy-to-grow native perennials, trees, and shrubs, and a list of upcoming local native plants sales.
The St Stephen’s Creation Care Committee
Above image by Chris Sorge, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.