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Why the ENC promotes the use of locally Native Plants

Penstemon centranthifolius

Penstemon centranthifolius, Scarlet Bugler

Invasive non-native organisms are one of the greatest threats to natural ecosystems. They can displace native plant and animal species and degrade our state’s unique and diverse biological resources.

California is home to more plant species than anywhere else in the United States. In fact, California is considered a biodiversity hotspot, an area with a large number of endemic species — those found nowhere else on the planet. California is home to 6,578 plant taxa, 2295 of which are endemic. 2422 of the plants species found in California are rare or endangered.

You can do your part to help preserve our environment with the addition of locally native plants to your garden. If you live in Orange County there are over 800 species of plants native to Orange County to choose from.

Native plants serve as habitat to native animals like birds and butterflies. They protect biodiversity. Native plants can also help your wallet.  Natives have adapted to the unique conditions of their environments, which means that they require far less water than non-native plants! Native plants can also reduce the costs of using pesticides, because they have adapted to defend themselves from pest damage (they don’t NEED to be sprayed with pesticides!). These plants also require less maintenance than non-native plants because they are adapted to local conditions, which means less mowing and pruning. They NEVER need fertilizing because they are adapted to our nutrient poor native soils.

In addition to reducing the biodiversity of an area, non-native plants have the potential to increase the frequency and intensity of fires and endanger native species (out compete them).  Non-native invasive species are the second biggest reason why species are endangered in the US. They cost us millions of dollars each year to control.

So what can you do? You can start by not planting non-native plants in your garden.  If thats too extreme, please at least make sure you do not purchase and plant invasive species.

You can check to see if a species is considered invasive HERE.

You can check to see if a species is native HERE.

“There are so many beautiful and interesting locally native plants to choose from I cannot imagine why anyone would want to plant anything else,” said ENC Education Director Lori Whalen.  “The reward of watching birds and butterflies in your garden is well worth spending the time to base your planting decisions on science rather than on what the local big box store has on sale.”

You can purchase native plants at the Environmental Nature Center (contact Mike for availability).  They are also available at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano and at Back to Natives Nursery in Santa Ana.

– Jeff Garrett, ENC Intern


READ this great article explaining why planting non-native tropical milkweed can be harmful to monarchs.


READ this article about how planting locally native milkweeds can help save Monarch butterflies.

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