Native plants are defined as plants that were present in North America before the arrival of European colonists. Non-native plants are also called exotic plants, and most of them come from Asia or Western Europe. Exotic plants can be but are not always invasive. The term “invasive” describes an exotic plant with no natural predators, competitors, or diseases in its new environment. There is, therefore, nothing to keep it in check, and it quickly takes over the area. Kudzu, the “vine that ate the South,” is an infamous example of an invasive plant. Such plants can become a threat to native species.
Tn Nursery is a native plant nursery in Tennessee. These types of plants are defined as plants present in North America before the arrival of European colonists.
The threat posed by invasive plants is just one reason for planting natives instead. Native plants are also easier to take care of. They are already adapted to the local climate and thus can tolerate almost any extreme weather peculiar to the area. In Tennessee, this often means native plants can withstand cold winters. Native plants are also already adapted to the soil conditions, and they need, therefore, less in the way of fertilizer. They also need less water and pesticides than exotic plants do.
Reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers helps the environment. Fertilizers that get in water trigger the production of nutrients which deplete the oxygen in the water. That, in turn, kills the fish and other creatures living in the water. Pesticides are often poisonous to many other creatures besides the ones they are designed to kill. Decreasing the use of fertilizers and pesticides thus benefits the environment. Since native plants need less fertilizer, planting pesticides also helps the environment. Plants also stabilize the ground and prevent erosion.
Planting a wide array of native plants results in a healthier yard than a lawn with one or two species. Yards with many plant species have fewer problems with diseases or pests; A yard with many different native plant species is likely to attract predators that eat insect pests. A yard with diverse plant species is likely to attract an equally diverse community of animals. That reduces the chances of anyone species completely dominating the yard.
Native plants can attract wildlife, birds, butterflies, and other creatures. The right mix of native plants can provide food and shelter for many animals. That includes nectar for bees, butterflies, and seeds for birds and small mammals like squirrels. Birds migrating during the fall feed on the fruits of the spicebush and flowering dogwood, while birds migrating during the spring eat the insects found on oak trees. Hummingbirds enjoy tubular flowers like the cardinal flower and native honeysuckle, while songbirds relish the fruit from hackberry, mulberry, or black cherry trees.
Restricting oneself to native plants should not be a hardship since Tennessee boasts around 3,000 species of native plants. That diversity is due to the diversity of environments within Tennessee, from mountains to swamps. Tennessee's location means it also has a diverse climate with both northern and southern climate patterns.
Examples of native plants include the following:
The tulip poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) or tulip tree is Tennessee's state tree. It is the tallest hardwood tree in North America and can grow 150 feet high. It can also live for over 200 years. It is a member of the magnolia family.
Magnolias, in general, are hardy trees with impressive leaves and flowers. There are roughly 80 species that are native to southeastern Asia and the eastern US. They can be either shrubs or full-sized trees, and beetles usually pollinate their flowers. Native magnolias include the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla), which has the most extensive simple leaves and single flowers of any native plant in North America. Its leaves can be nearly four feet long. The cucumber tree or blue magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) owes its common name to its fruit which looks like a tiny cucumber when unripe.
The aptly named winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a shrub
The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) can be found in all 48 of the contiguous United States. It is a member of the sunflower family, and it is a popular ornamental plant. Butterflies like it and are especially drawn to large groups of black-eyed Susans.
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a perennial flower like shady woodlands. Its red and yellow flowers attract hummingbirds. It is also known as the Eastern red columbine or the Canadian columbine.
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