Every region of our planet has native plants, species that evolved in a particular place within a distinct plant community. These species are adapted to local climates, soils, and weather, and exhibit an array of ecological strategies, from germination patterns to growth and reproduction.
This is the stuff of plant ecological research. Folks who study the details of these processes spend a lot of time carefully monitoring plant behavior, with controlled experimental manipulations and lots of data collection. It's time-consuming, but revealing.
The reproductive habits of a plant are clues to whether it'll be invasive in a new habitat, or a well-behaved garden inhabitant. Many plants are highly adaptable moved from their native environments to new ones; they're often the stalwarts in our ornamental plant palettes.
We have plants from all over the world in our gardens and landscapes, wherever you might live. Often the same plants, though, appear over and over.
But a diversity of plants is always the key to a healthy and balanced garden, and the more natives the better.
Native plants support native insects that native birds and amphibians eat; their flowers, fruits, seeds, and leaves (not to mention their structure) provide food and habitat for birds, insects, mammals, etc. So in our gardens, emulating nature is a wonderful way to restore the often barren suburban, urban, or exurban landscapes that may face us.
Even though we weren't gardeners when we (my gardening companion and I) started on the journey of transforming our acre and a half of lawn to woodland, meadow, shrub borders, perennial gardens and vegetable gardens, we are now.
And we're grateful to feel like we're good stewards of our space for as long as we're here.
This is the transformation from lawn to woodland in our front yard - we're definitely appreciative of the power of plants.