April is the month where those of us living in Ohio start getting giddy about warmer months, longer days with sunshine and our brown yards turning green once more!
April has also been declared National Native Plant Month, with Ohio being the first state to lead the way! Why are native plants such a big deal?
Native plants are species that have evolved and occur naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, and habitat. Like, basically since we were a continent.
This is important because the native animals (insects, mammals, amphibians, avians, etc) that have always been (evolved and lived) in that area have evolved to depend on those native plants as food sources. And sometimes, that relationship is very specific. Make sense?
This becomes an issue when in our suburban areas and worse - industrial areas - have little to no native plants, so this is the reason you don't see the butterflies (or birds, bees, other insects) that you used to "when you were a kid".
Our purchasing choices for plants (flowers, bushes, trees, etc) provide a dizzying array of colors, textures and sizes. Sadly, what's created much of this selection is science, not nature.
Stick with me...there's a point coming!.....
All the fancy stuff scientists have done to give us so many color options in flowers, for instance, has rendered most of them sterile. That means that the flower might be pretty, but it no longer produces pollen or nectar, or such crappy quality pollen/nectar that it's useless. So what to do?
Let's use an 80/20 rule: 20% of what you plant, choose what's pretty (but not invasive). 80% of what you plant, choose what's native. If a non-native hydrangea reminds you of your grandma, then plant it. Just be sure to find another beautiful native option to add into the mix. Totally doable, right?
Another bonus? Native plants are far easier to take care of because they're genetically hardwired to know the weather and soil conditions of the area to which they're native. More enjoyment, less hassle!
Spring is a great time to get started and here's an excellent resource from our very own ODNR: Ohio Native Spring Wildflower Checklist