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Mr. Smarty Plants - Research on Native vs. Non-Native Plants

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Thursday - October 22, 2009

From: Graham, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Research on Native vs. Non-Native Plants
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I am doing a research project on comparing and analyzing the effects of non-native plants vs. native plants on the environment and surrounding ecosystems. The end result of my project will be to design and implement a garden landscape, using native plants that will thrive in Graham, North Carolina. With your vast knowledge in this area, can you suggest some source materials to help with my research and suggest some native plants that will thrive and provide a positive effect on the surrounding ecosystem?

ANSWER:

A good comprehensive source summarizing the benefits of native plants is the book Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas W. Tallamy. The author, an entomologist with the University of Delaware, has researched differences in wildlife diversity on native and non-native plants and in this book he summarizes what is known about the subject, gives the history of non-native introductions, ranks plants by their usefulness to insects, and gives answers to common questions about native plants.

The bibliography in Tallamy’s book will give you a starting point for further research, but here is a short list of academic journals commonly used for reference on your topic. Most at least have brief summaries of their articles accessible online, with full articles available at university libraries or online with paid subscriptions:

Journal of Restoration Ecology, Journal of Environmental Sciences, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Ecography, Journal of Vegetation Science, Journal of Arid Environments, Oecologia, Grasslands, and Revista de Biología Tropical.

Here are some sample articles:


Measuring floristic homogenization by non-native plants in North America;

Insect Biodiversity and Assessment of Herbivory in Native and Non-Native Plants in Mo’orea, French Polynesia;

and

Impact of Native Plants on Bird and Butterfly Biodiversity in Suburban Landscapes.

If you do a web search on the phrases “native plants” and “non-native plants”, followed by the word “study”, several articles will come up, with a variety of conclusions. Tallamy covers many of the nuances of the topic in his book.

And on your landscaping project, an excellent reference for your region is Sally and Andy Wasowski’s book, Gardening with Native Plants of the South. Using only native plants, the authors provide several garden plans and useful information about 228 native plants, including the natural companion plants of each species and what animals rely on them.

The Wildflower Center website can also help you choose plants with our Combination Search plant selection function. Just select your state, specify the light level and soil moisture of your site, and go. A list will come up of plants from which to choose.

Your state's native plant society has a good list of references that could also be of help to you.

 

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