Native plants are those that grow naturally in a region. For example, cherry trees (Prunus avium) occur naturally in the UK, making them native trees. If you want to garden for the environment, it’s essential to include native trees in your outdoor space. This article will take you through exactly why native trees are so important for the environment.
Firstly, native plants are great for boosting biodiversity, an important environmental factor. Global biodiversity has faced massive losses in recent years, with an average of 69% decrease in species populations since 1970.
Biodiversity is essential to keep ecosystems running. Having the right range of plants, animals, and insects in an environment means the right ecosystem functions are happening. This includes cleaning water, regulating the climate, and keeping soils healthy. These things all work together to keep us well-stocked with food and other resources.
How do native plants help with biodiversity?
Shelter and habitats
Native trees, shrubs, and vining plants provide essential shelter and habitats for many different creatures like birds, mammals, and insects. Native plants give our wildlife places to live, eat, breed, and hibernate safely.
Native plants provide the best food for wildlife because birds, animals, and insects have adapted to feed from the plants that grow naturally around them. Here are some foods that native species provide:
- Fruits for birds and other animals
- Nectar for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Bees can generally only survive a day without nectar.
- Seeds for animals like birds and squirrels
Native flowers produce a lot of pollen which is very important for the environment. Pollinators rely on pollen to do their jobs, but also for other parts of their lives. For example, here are some ways that bees use pollen:
- They make it into jelly to provide protein for larvae and the queen
- They use it in the structure of their honeycomb
- Queens use it after hibernation so they can start laying eggs
For other pollinators – like some wasps and beetles – pollen is just a very important food source. Non-native plants also produce pollen, but research has found that they may change bee-plant network structures. Native plants are best suited to our pollinators.
Click here to discover 10 plants that attract pollinators.
Fewer resources required
As native plants are more adapted to their environment, they tend to need fewer resources like additional food and water, often getting enough water from rainfall alone in the cooler months. They also tend to be much more resistant to pests and diseases. Therefore, they need fewer treatments. “It’s a win-win – you can do less work, and the plants do more for the environment” – Chris Bonnet, owner of Gardening Express.
Requiring fewer resources makes them very beneficial to the environment. By growing these plants, you save on additional water, ensure you don’t need to use as many chemicals, and use less plastic by reducing how many bottles of fertiliser or pesticide you use.
Overall, native plants are a great option for an environmentally friendly garden. They’re great for wildlife and need much less attention, making them a more sustainable option for your garden. Here are some plants that are native to the UK to get you started: