Ecology and Native Plants



What is Ecology?


Ecology is the science of how living things interact with each other and the factors of their environment. Ecological areas range greatly in size. The smaller an area the more specific one can be. Plants are the foundation of any ecological area or system, and Plants for Ecology sells plants, shrubs and trees whose native range includes SE Michigan. I want to supply folks with the plants that will allow them to create a beautiful and diverse ecological habitat where they live.


What are native plants?


Native plants are those plants that have evolved in concert with other species over a long period of time (millions of years) in a given ecological region. Since they have coevolved, native plants work in historic relationships with other species in their ecological region. Milkweed is a great example, as it is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly and also performs a host of other services for many other species (the provision of nectar and pollen for example). They evolved together. The same could not be said if Milkweed were planted in Dublin, Ireland.


In contrast, plant species (or any other species for that matter) living outside their native ecological range are said to be adventive or exotic. They have no historic relationship with other species in the region and ,therefore, harm rather than support the ecology of the region. Norway Maple is an example of an exotic species. It does close to nothing beneficial, yet there is nothing to keep it in check. It will out-compete native flora but offer nothing in return. Areas populated by exotics become food deserts for the species that rely on native plants. An exotic species that spreads quickly and vastly is termed invasive.

Giant Ichneumon requires American Beech trees to breed

Giant Ichneumon requires American Beech trees to breed

We have a great knowledge of the native plants of our region, since they were extensively inventoried from the time of colonization by the European powers.  I will rightly surmise that much of that knowledge was gleaned from the Native American tribes whose relationship to the natural world was far different from that of the Europeans. 

By planting a diverse selection of native flora (bio-diversity is important!) in your yard, a person is creating a mini native habitat which will draw nature within its borders. Nature’s dance will play out in your yard, but a helping of patience will be required. This will not happen overnight, and it will take hard work to establish your garden or habitat. Make sure not to forget the addition of water to your habitat as it is essential to the creation of a viable and dynamic landscape. Water will be discussed more in the section Planting and Garden Establishment.