The Importance of Native Plants & Pollinators

October 11, 2018

This guest post was written by Donna Pearson of the Girty’s Run Watershed Association


About a third of the plants in Pennsylvania fields and yards are invasive species that simply do not support the insects and caterpillars needed to support wildlife. They haven’t developed the specialized relationships they need.

Flowering plants and pollinators co-evolved, and pollination is the key event for a plant and for pollinators in the cycle of a year. Some species of pollinators have co-evolved with one species of plant, and the two species time their cycles to coincide, for example, insects maturing from larva to adult precisely when nectar flows begin. Bees and other pollinators generally forage for food within 2 to 4 miles of their hive.

The attraction of pollinating insects to an area can benefit home gardens and help to support wildlife in the ecosystem of a neighborhood. Pollination is an important part of food production, and successful pollination can help to increase the amount of food grown in home gardens and possibly build hive strength in beehives nearby.

If we lose our pollinators, it will not only hurt agriculture, but also the 80 to 90 percent of the plants that depend on pollinators to survive. If we think about plants only as decorations, that is missing a large part of their purpose in the natural world.  We can think about plants as supporting nature and protecting our watershed so they contribute to ecological restoration.

It’s important that we take collective action to protect and improve the environment. Bird populations have declined over 40% since the 1960s and the Monarch butterfly population is at its lowest since scientists began tracking in the 1970s. You can help make a difference for wildlife in your backyard.

We can’t just rely on parks and nature preserves to maintain our natural diversity because they are too isolated. Support for insects and birds has to happen in people’s backyards. To restore nature’s relationships, we must ask our landscapes to do more  – they can’t just be pretty. Your yard or patio could serve as a mini nature reserve that provides important year-round habitat and food sources for wildlife, birds, and pollinators. If absolutely nothing is eating your plants, your garden is not part of the ecosystem!

Your yard can support life, clean and manage water, enrich soil, and support pollinators with the right plants. If you and your neighbors plant even a few pollinator-friendly plants, it can help form a lifeline across your community. No matter the size, if it’s a window box or an acre, your property represents an opportunity to make a difference for the health of our world. And we don’t have to guess – there are many ways to find beautiful native plants that are well adapted to our climate and the heavy clay soils common in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Here are a few great resources:

The Gardens of Millvale is getting it’s own pollinator-friendly garden thanks to generous support from Neighborhood Allies Love My Neighbor program. Learn more about native plants and help with the planting on October 20th, 2018! Facebook event here.

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