Keep your garden (and our planet) healthy with native flowers

Spring is right around the corner, which means you may be picking out the perfect flowers to plant in your garden. Before you decide what to plant, do nature a favor and make sure you are choosing natives species, NOT invasive species.

Damage far beyond your backyard

Invasive plants grow rapidly, spread easily, don’t get eaten, and thrive with little to no effort. These traits may make them sound like a good choice, but they’re actually quite the opposite. Invasive plants are stubborn and take over your garden by depriving other plants of resources like water, nutrients, and light. Planting them can quickly turn into an expensive hassle. Not only do they dominate your flower beds, but they also spread beyond your yard where they can upend natural ecosystems, causing destructive changes to the soil, vegetation, and wildlife.

Common invasive


Despite their negative impact, many invasive plants and seeds are readily available at nurseries and online. Fortunately, with a little research you can find out which plants to avoid. The Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network has created lists of invasive species that are commonly sold as landscape ornamentals. It can be viewed at https://www.habitatmatters.org/ornamental-invasive-species.html. To view a prioritized list of invasives for KISMA, visit: /https://www.mtu.edu/kisma/​

Native alternatives

If you were planning on planting any of these invasive species this spring, consider opting for their native alternatives instead. For more on native alternatives, visit: https://keweenaw.wildones.org/where-to-buy-native-plants/

You can choose many wonderful native plants as alternatives, such as the ones suggested in the “plant this” images throughout or the sources at the end of this article.

Native plants make a big difference in the quality of our environment, according to the USDA Forest Service, by:

• Conserving water: Because native plants are well adapted to local conditions, they require little to no extra water once they are established. Some also have deep root systems that reduce flooding and erosion.

• Improving air quality: Unlike lawns, native plants do not require mowing, and they remove and store carbon from the air, which reduces air pollution and helps mitigate global warming.

• Protecting wildlife: Native plants provide habitat to birds, nectar to pollinators, shelter for many mammals and food for many different types of wildlife. They are also low-maintenance and do not require fertilizers and pesticides that can harm wildlife and us.

At the end of the day, by planting native flowers, you are helping our environment by providing food and shelter for wildlife, and therefore promoting wildlife diversity. This spring, show the Earth some love by adding native flowers to your garden.

KISMA can help

If you think you have invasive species in your yard or any other invasive species concerns, contact KISMA at kisma.up@gmail.com or visit our website at https://www.mtu.edu/kisma/. KISMA can also provide a more complete list of native species to plant in your garden. Another good source of native species to plant in the UP is the https://www.canr.msu.edu/nativeplants/plant_facts/local_info/upper_peninsula#tr

Research by Hannah Marlor (hlmarlor@mtu.edu) Environmental Science and Sustainability undergraduate; Sigrid Resh (scresh@mtu.edu) coordinator, Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area (KISMA) and Research Assistant Professor, Michigan Technological University


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