Native Plants Support Native Animal populations,Native Plants for Native Animal Populations

By Williams, Candy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Native Plants Support Native Animal populations,Native Plants for Native Animal Populations


Williams, Candy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Steve Castorani wants gardeners to consider native plants for their gardens -- but not only for their natural beauty.

"It's very important that we understand the role native plants play in our environment," says Castorani, co-founder and president of North Creek Nurseries, co-owner of American Beauties Inc., and one of four speakers at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference next weekend.

The conference invites landscape professionals and horticulture enthusiasts to learn about ways in which well-designed landscapes can help to sustain the natural environment through lectures and discussions.

Castorani says there is a direct relationship between native- plant populations and the animals that share our environment. By reducing the quantity of native plants, food sources available to native birds and butterflies are reduced.

"In turn, this loss reduces the food source other animals depend on. It interrupts the food chain. Non-native plant species do not provide digestible tissue for our native insects and, in turn, the reduction of native insects reduces our native bird populations. Native birds require these insects to raise their young," he says.

Native plants offer many other advantages, according to Castorani. They are adapted to our soils and climate, they require less care and watering when established, and they thrive with less fertilizer and disease control. He says Western Pennsylvania offers a wide range of native plants that thrive in our region. Some of his favorites include:

- White oak tree, which serves as a host plant for more than 500 species of butterflies and moth caterpillars.

- Red bud, a small, flowering tree that provides seeds for birds and a nesting place in the bark and leaf debris for insects

- High-bush blueberry, an edible plant for humans and birds with bright fall color

- Cardinal flower, a perennial and a favorite plant of hummingbirds

- Alum root, another perennial, that serves as an easy-to-grow woodland groundcover.

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Native Plants Support Native Animal populations,Native Plants for Native Animal Populations
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