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Going Native… by Donatella de Rosa

Here in the Hudson Valley—as well as other regions across the nation—there is a truly phenomenal movement in the works: a trend to use locally grown produce and goods and to patronize locally owned shops and businesses. This trend is both environmentally and economically healthy for those of us that make our homes here. These days, the trend in home gardening is to cultivate native plants—a group of plants that has evolved along with the fauna of a specific region. Having adapted over thousands of years to the particular conditions needed to thrive in this local ecosystem, they offer many benefits for use in your garden or landscape.

A key to the significance of this trend is understanding the difference between native and non-native plants and the importance of being aware of the many invasive non-native plants that are spreading—some seemingly uncontrolled—into our forests and open spaces. Non-native plants are those plants that have been brought to a region through human activity, either deliberately or accidentally. Many have become “naturalized” and are not harmful to the local ecosystem. However, there are many that are considered “invasive”. These are plants that pose a threat to our native plants and local biodiversity, and there often is nothing to impede or check their spread.

Some of the benefits of using native plants: they have an enhanced chance at survivability since they are adapted to local conditions and thus need little or no fertilizer. They also require little or no pesticides, very little maintenance and less water than non-native ornamentals and, as a result, save money

Those are just the basics. Other benefits of using primarily local flora are more complex. They help reduce air pollution and provide shelter and food for wildlife, promoting biodiversity. Perhaps one of the most important reasons for using native plants is the abundance of non-native invasive plants that are outpacing our natives. The consequences could be an irrevocable change in the local biodiversity, creating an ecological disaster. The almost indestructible Japanese Knotweed that is proliferating along our stream beds and roadsides is an especially pernicious example of an invasive non-native. Even the common daylily [Hemerocullis fulva], is considered invasive. Another invasive—once considered an asset—is purple loosestrife [Lythrum salicaria].

Surprisingly, some invasive species may even appear in your local nursery. The ever-present English Ivy [Hedera helix] and Periwinkle [Vinca minor], are two. But there may be many more.

Happily, there is an abundance of beautiful plants native to our region—many are great alternatives to the traditional ornamentals—and they can certainly be mixed with non-invasive ornamentals if you can’t resist incorporating some traditional plants into your garden or landscape.

These are just a small selection of plants that are native to the Hudson Valley Region:
Eastern columbine [Aquilegia canadensis]
Butterfly weed [Asclepsis tuberosa Aster spp.]
Blue false indigo [Baptisia australis]
Tall larkspur [Delphinium exaltatum]
Purple coneflower [Echinacia purpurea]
Wild geranium [Geranium maculatum]
Blazing-star, Gayfeather [Liatris sp.]
Beebalm, Monarda [Monarda sp.]
Switch grass [Panicum virgatum]
Black-eyed-susan [Rudbeckia hirta]
Eastern redbud [Cercis canadensis]
Turtlehead [Chelone]
Pink tickseed [Coreopsis rosea]
Joe-pye-weed [Eupatorium fistulosum]
Queen-of-the-prairie [Filipendula rubra]
Rose mallow [Hibiscus moscheutos]
Blue flag iris [Iris versicolor]
Red maple [Acer rubrum]
River birch [Betula nigra]
Red-osier-dogwood [Cornus sericea]

If you’re planning a rain garden [to absorb rainwater], a butterfly garden, or a wildflower garden any combination of these native plants will help you to achieve great results. Plants that have already adapted to the local conditions create a natural habitat for birds, insects and wildlife. This is an important consideration if we want to save the many species that are simply disappearing from our region’s fragile ecosystems.

There are numerous resources online for information on native plants and invasive non-native plants, too many to list. But here in the Hudson Valley we have some great sources, both for plant materials and for information.

The following nurseries have clearly marked native plants along with knowledgeable staff who are genuinely helpful:

Northern Dutchess Botanical Gardens
389 Salisbury Tpke. | Rhinebeck | 845.876.2953

Catskill Native Nursery
607 Samsonville-Kerhonkson Road | Kerhonkson | 845.6262758 |

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