Why Native Plants

Join the Movement! Anyone can be an Eco-Warrior Gardener

During our lifetimes, we will continue to see the effects of climate change unfold and witness the loss of habitats and species. We have watched as the populations of monarch butterflies and lightning bugs have dwindled across the country.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, our once common Western Bumblebee has almost nearly disappeared, and our yards that once used to be full of striking butterflies like the Western Tiger Swallowtail are now rarely visited by them.

How can I make a difference?

The causes of biodiversity loss are complex and multi-faceted.  Many of us often feel helpless to impact change. But anyone can make a difference!  You can join a growing movement of gardeners who are re-thinking how our yards, parking strips and community green spaces can be converted to support birds and pollinators. Even a small native garden in your yard will help connect wildlife corridors created by your neighbors' native gardens, parks and wilderness areas.

How do native plants help preserve biodiversity?

Native plants and insects have co-evolved together.  A majority of our pollinators are considered Specialists, which means they can only feed and lay eggs on a limited number of plants with which they have co-evolved.  When we remove the native plants from our eco-system and replace them with non-native plants - like grass lawns and ornamental trees and flowers -  we are eliminating the habitat for a large majority of our local wildlife.

How do native plants support birds?

By welcoming a greater diversity of insects into our yards and community, we are also providing important food sources for birds. Most baby birds need a full diet of insects.  One of the most important food sources for parenting birds to bring back to the nest are protein-packed caterpillars, which hatch from the eggs laid by butterflies and moths. Adult songbirds depend on not just insects, but also on native berries and seeds that provide a well-balanced diet. Hummingbirds depend on native plants that have evolved to provide them with nectar. Learn more about the importance of native plants in helping bird populations in this Smithsonian Study.

What are other benefits of planting native gardens instead of non-native ornamental landscapes?

Native plants have evolved in our region, which means they have adapted to living in long, mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Finding the right native plants that match with your soil and sunlight conditions means that you can work towards a self-sustaining native landscape that does not need to be fertilized and watered to flourish.

How do I know if a plant is considered native?

If you live in or around Portland, OR, you probably live in the Willamette Valley.  The plants that we advocate for are considered native to the lower Willamette Valley.  The reference guides we promote are City of Portland's Portland Plant List and Metro's Native Plants for Willamette Valley Yards.