April is Ohio Native Plant Month
The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2020 as International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). April 2020 is our FIRST Ohio Native Plant Month, and the 50 Anniversary of Earth Day!
Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Without them and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive, and so on up and throughout the food web.
When pollinators look for their food, they look for specific things in the plants. This might be petal shape, scent, color, and even nectar guides that are visible under U/V light. Cultivars of native plants can differ greatly from the original, making the flowers unappealing, or unusable to the pollinators. Think about how many times you've heard someone complain that "roses don't small as good as they used to', this is due to our breeding of cultivars. There are many amazing cultivars of native plants out there, but remember to plant the "originals" as well.
Flower in visible light (left), ultraviolet light (centre), and infrared light (right).
In ultraviolet light the flower's throat has clear dark markings, acting as a nectar guide
Photo credit: David Kennard /www.davidkennardphotography.com
Unlike natives, many common horticultural plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas. Look carefully at the plants you buy and propagate, you don't want to be the person that introduces the next honeysuckle or callery pear.
Find out more about native plants and what is in bloom near you at the Ohio Native Plant Month website https://www.ohionativeplantmonth.org/.