Native plants produce many options

I often get questions about what the name of a particular plant is. Sometimes I know it right off the top of my head, sometimes I mull it over for a while and reach back into that part of my mind filled with cobwebs and pull out the answer, or too often I do not know.

This latter is quite often an unattractive choice. Part of the reason is that I was educated in native Midwestern trees and some herbaceous plants — there are a lot of these. The old adage if you don’t use it you lose it does play a part.

More often than not it is something out of my scope of knowledge. There are more than 20,000 species of plants just in North America. Although non-native plants are everywhere, they do not have to be.

Being creative

Landscape architects, and different horticulturalists have played with different species around cities and homes creating beautiful landscapes. Many of these species are collected from around the world to fill different niches.

Color, form, size and timing of flowering were all taken into consideration when doing this. However, some of these species have had dire effects. Introduction of these species has given rise to invasive species or pest problems.

Norway maple has hybridized with our native maples or even just propagated in our wood lots. Chestnut blight is believed to have come from Chinese chestnut that was planted in New York. Thousand cancer disease moved east after transferring black walnut back and forth across the country.

Landscape architects and horticulturalists are not the only ones who have worked with different plants to get the desired effect. Autumn olive, multiflora rose and ailanthus were all originally planted with good purposes in mind.

Invasive species

They were planted as living fences, wildlife food, and bank stabilization respectively. Now, we consider these and others in different lights as invasive species. To be fair to both groups this was the best knowledge that we had at the time.

For example, the U.S. forest service has only been around for 100 years and Europeans have been here for over 500.

Conservationists are still learning every day about our environment around us. The vast majority of plant species around your property are probably native which is a good thing.

Also, it is important that we work to keep it that way. When landscaping your house think about planting native wildflowers that often require less work and maintenance than other species.

Making choices

Thinking about a wind break for your house or drive way?

While there are not any native spruce to Ohio, there are native pines, hemlocks and arborvitae. Do you like flowering trees? Dogwoods, hawthorns, paw-paws, redbuds and more all produce flowers.

Rhododendrons are great shrubs for flowers too.

Not that fond of flowers but still want a little color or would like a nice splash of red in your yard in the fall? Burning bush and Virginia creeper both produce bright red foliage.

Edibles? There are plenty of those also. Paw-paw, persimmon, wild plum, leeks, service berry, elderberry, oaks, hickory, walnut, chestnut and more.

With the right plantings, cultivation and knowledge, taking a walk outside can be a smorgasbord.

Native species are adapted to your area and will generally grow very well. I have seen time and again people throwing hard-earned money at plants that just are not right for the area.

The land owner is either trying to tame in an invasive, or they are trying to keep a plant growing that just is not adapted to live here.

As always, feel free to contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District, NRCS or OSU Extension office for help.

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