Many people, when deciding on plants and trees for their yard, choose those that offer to fulfill whatever needs they might have: shade or smell for example. Some might choose a bush that attracts butterflies or blooms with beautiful flowers, but often whether the plant is native to your area is overlooked.
Why is it important to choose indigenous plants?
To be selfish, they’re easier.
Probably the most important to the plant owner is not whether the plant is pretty, but actually whether you can keep it alive. There’s certainly no point in spending hundreds of dollars on a plant that will look pretty for a few weeks before looking weak and eventually dying.
Native plants thrive in our soil. In South Florida that can be rare as our soil is sandy, and prone to dryness and flooding, depending on the season. Our native plants are more likely to withstand our weather conditions – long periods of drought and baking full sun followed by rainy seasons.
Unfortunately no one and no plant is built to withstand hurricanes; those are simply nature’s way of spring cleaning, although the healthiest spots of our gorgeous Everglades consistently bounce back after storm devastation, showing the resilience of our ecosystem. Sadly, hurricanes also spread non-native species by blowing seeds across the landscape.
So, having non native plants in your yard can have further reaching effects than you may expect.
These are native plants, grown in the wild. They aren’t shipped in from California or transported from Mexico and so the cost is lower.
They mix well with others.
Sometimes two people from different cultures have a hard time overcoming cultural barriers, language differences and expected etiquette, right? Same with plants. A melaleuca tree, for example, tends to be bossy and won’t play well with our native mangroves. Those plants and tress that grew up together though have learned how to get along and they won’t kill each other off when you’re not looking (that being said, healthy vines can certainly take over of you don’t keep them maintained!)
It’s an accomplishment
You can win a plaque and be recognized for keeping a Florida friendly yard. The University of Florida can help you in so many ways to build a Florida friendly yard. Check out their site: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/faq.htm
To be unselfish, they’re better for our future.
We, in South Florida are lucky lucky folk. We live in paradise: amazing temperatures year round, beautiful beaches, amazing landscapes, good commerce, and a great mix of cultures. Most of us moved here, making us non-native species too, but our reasons were plentiful and we need to keep those reasons thriving, for the tourists that pump up our economy and for our children, who can be considered native. We need to stand apart from other places in this country and from our countries in order to maintain our originality.
Our wildlife relies on native plants for their well-being and, while many species are adaptive and will continue to thrive with non native plants, some will not. In addition, many non-native species will thrive, driving out or killing off the natives. Of course, we are watching this closely with the growing population of pythons in the Everglades.
The Everglades are an awesome ecosystem on which we, as a population have encroached. In order to do our part to maintain the Everglades welfare, we should stick to native plants and help, in our own small way, to stop the spread of non-native species that threaten it.
But will it look like a mess if all my plants are native or wild?
“You can have a yard that protects the environment and looks great too! All kinds of yards, from conventional looking and manicured to more natural looking yards, can be Florida friendly. What makes your landscape Florida friendly is your ability to manage it with minimal use of water, pesticides and fertilizers. You may be able to simply change the way you manage your yard now, or you may need to make some changes in your plants. You will need to accept that a low maintenance yard is not perfect – expect a small amount of pest damage at times and don’t expect a lush green in your lawn at all times. But with careful planning and management, especially in the plants you choose, you can have a yard that is attractive as well as low maintenance. See our photo gallery for examples of different types of yards that are managed in a Florida friendly way.”
How to find native plants for Florida
Amazing site that allows you to choose from trees, grasses, groundcovers and find which will work in your yard and which are natives.
The Florida Native Plant Society gives you a list of sites broken into categories such as wildflowers, trees and grasses.
Regional Conservation lets you look at which plants are native to your county.