Highland Lakes

Country Club and Community Association

Go Native

Brenda Susman for the Ecology Committee

When planting season arrives do you wonder what plants are hardy, lovely and blend in with the lakes’ natural beauty? Think native plants. They have lived here for hundreds of years because they grow best in our environment. The following commentary and lists of native plants were written by George Waffle, a Highland Lakes resident, for Ecology Day 2005. The article contains a wealth of information and answers a lot of our questions about what to plant in our yards and along our lakes and streams.

About Native Plants by George Waffle

A spectacular array of native plants graces our Landscapes.  Together these plants form the basis for the many diverse communities and ecosystems that directly support our economic prosperity and quality of life. No matter how small, all plants play a valuable role in our lives.

What is a native plant?

Native plants are those plants that grew in a defined region prior to European settlement. Non-native plants are those plants that were brought to the area by human activity, whether accidentally or purposefully. Many of the flowers and vegetables typically grown in home gardens are non-native, such as zinnias and cabbage. Throughout the settlement of our region, people brought the seeds of plants from their homelands, some of which have since spread into the wild.

These plants are considered naturalized non-natives. Queen-Anne’s lace is an example of a naturalized non-native plant.  Invasive non-native plants are those plants that have escaped into the wild and are destroying the native plants and ecosystems around them. Japanese honeysuckle, purple loosestrife and garlic mustard are examples of invasive non-native plants in our region. Why are native plants important?

Ecological Values

Native plants convert the sun’s energy into food; thus they are the initial source of all energy in the food chain.  Plants filter and purify fresh water upon which all terrestrial life depends.  Plants build soil, prevent erosion and ensure soil stability for the landscape.  Plants store carbon dioxide and produce oxygen that all animals, including humans, require.

Economic Values

Native plant biodiversity allows for the opportunity to discover new medicines to cure human ailments. Plants are sources of genetic and raw materials  that are used to diversify agricultural and industrial products.

For the homeowner, native plants are adapted to local conditions and thus require less fertilizer, pesticides, maintenance and watering than non-native landscape plants. Native plants have a greater survivability than non-native ornamentals.

Aesthetic Values

The presence of plants in their native habitats and in cultivation gives us a “sense of place.”  Native plant communities and natural areas provide opportunities for people to experience and appreciate Pennsylvania’s rich natural heritage.

Why should I garden with native plants?

Native plants make beautiful, functional and environmentally smart additions to any type of garden. For starters, native plants and animals are part of a region’s web of life. All living organisms are interdependent and a part of this complex system.

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