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Native Plants and Invasive Plants: Good vs Evil

If are not already using native plants in your garden, it’s time to start! There’s a wealth of resources available to home gardeners, and you can inspire others and do your part to help the larger ecosystem by planting native species, eliminating invasives, and joining HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK, “a bottom-up call-to-action to restore habitat where we live and work – extending national parks to our yards and communities.” The end of this post includes links to resources for selecting native plants for Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula and for identifying and eliminating invasives from your landscape.

Button Bush

Native plants are endemic to a particular area, occurring there long before human habitation. These plants evolved and adapted to the local climate and growing conditions, becoming an integral part of the ecosystem. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, common horticultural plants do not provide energetic rewards for their visitors and often require insect pest control to survive.

Joe Pye Weed

Native plants are advantageous because:

· They do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.

· Native plants require less water than lawns and help prevent erosion. The deep root systems of many native Midwestern plants increase the soil's capacity to store water. They significantly reduce water runoff and, consequently, flooding.

· Native plants help reduce air pollution. Native plantscapes do not require mowing. Excessive carbon from the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Native plants sequester, or remove, carbon from the air.

· Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.

· Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.

· Native plants are beautiful and increase scenic values!

Sky Blue Aster

A few suggested native plants for Northern Michigan (see resources below for many more):

· Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum

· Golden Alexanders, Zizia aurea

· Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa

· Sky Blue Aster, Aster azureus

· Spotted Joe-pye Weed, Eupatoriadelphus maculatus

· Sweet Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia subtomentosa

· Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis

· Winterberry, Ilex verticillata

Golden Alexander

An invasive species is an introduced, nonnative organism that begins to spread or expand its range from the site of its original introduction and that has the potential to cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health. Invasive plants cause costly economic and ecological damage each year including crop decimation, clogging of water facilities and waterways, and increased fire vulnerability.

Invasive plants are problematic because:

· Invasive plant species outcompete natives and spread quickly. They displace native plants, prevent native plant growth, and create monocultures.

· Invasive groundcovers (like ivy) have little root structure to bind the soil making erosion much more likely.

· Invasive plants are a leading cause of declines in native plant and animal numbers, and are a factor in Endangered Species Act listings.

· Invasive plants can reduce the amount of tree cover by preventing trees from becoming established.

Invasives – the chief offenders in Michigan



Homegrown National Park is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. The Michigan Garden Clubs have partnered with Homegrown National Park in order to encourage individuals to take action and get the word out about the importance of planting native.

Michigan State University Extension has online resources for selecting and maintaining native plant landscapes. There are over 1,800 native plant species in Michigan. MSU Native Plant List – Northern Lower Peninsula:

University of Michigan Herbarium - Michigan Flora Database contains information, mapping, and search tools as a companion to the Field Manual of Michigan Flora. The site provides basic information about all vascular plants known to occur outside of cultivation in the state.

Plant it Wild is an independent, no-profit native plant group based in Benzie and Manistee counties in Michigan. Their website contains list of native plants that they use, and other resources:

Wildflower Association of Michigan promotes awareness of the ecological benefits of native plants and native plant communities.

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council Native Plant List - Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council is dedicated to protecting our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties. Their website includes Northern Michigan Native plants, invasive species to avoid, and sources for purchasing native plants.

Wild Ones promotes environmentally friendly, sound landscaping to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration, and establishment of native plant communities. They provide educational resources and free, professionally designed native garden templates.

Michigan Audubon provides a list of Michigan Native Plants for Bird Friendly Landscapes as well as other resources on their website.

Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network is a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (or Cooperative Weed Management Area). Their website offers resources for identifying invasive species along with educational resources, treatment for invasives, and native plant guides.

CAKE CISMA The cooperative invasive species management area serving Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, and Emmet counties. CISMAs are partnerships of groups and individuals that work to address invasive species impacts on the environment, economy and human health within a defined region. Their website provides resources for native and invasive plants in our region.

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. It provides a list of Native plants for Pollinators & Beneficial Insects for the Great Lakes region:

Gruler Gardens, Petoskey, MI, is a native plant garden. Their annual plant sale dates are listed on their website.

Birdsfoot Native Nursery, South Boardman, MI, propagates Michigan native species from seed to produce high quality, container grown plants for landscaping professionals, homeowners and conservation efforts. They are not open for retail sales, but you can purchase online

Black Cap Farm, Onekama, MI is a native plant nursery with over 200 species of Michigan native trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials.

Michigan Wildflowers has a list (with photos) of 45 common Michigan Wildflowers on their website:

Michigan DNR Trees webpage has information about trees that are native to the State of Michigan.

Otsego Conservation District offers trees and shrubs as well as their native plant greenhouse that sells locally grown plants. They maintain the Otsego County Alternative Landscaping Demonstration Garden in Gaylord, MI.

Michigan Wildflower Farm in Portland, MI, sells native plant seeds and offers helpful advice on starting a wildflower meadow.

Maidenhair Fern

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