A recent trip to the Naturally Native Nursery in Bowling Green taught me a great deal about the plants that are native to northwest Ohio.
Jan Hunter guided the members of the Sandusky Valley Herb Society through a video presentation that showed more than 30 indigenous species, and then took us on a tour of the area where most of these flowers, trees and shrubs are growing in profusion, seemingly unaffected by our long, hot summer.
Native plants are defined as those that existed in this area prior to European settlement and they continue to thrive in
this locale without the assistance of fertilizers.
These plants provide food and habitat for wildlife, so important today in the decline in numbers of many animal species. As native habitats are destroyed by building development and the excessive use of herbicides and pesticide, invasive species of plants move into an area and hasten the loss of native species. Preserving, restoring and establishing landscape that encourages biodiversity is the mission of Naturally Native.
The use of native plants in our own yards and gardens has benefits for ourselves as well as for the plants and animals among us. A few hundred years ago, northwest Ohio was a place of woodlands, meadows and wetlands, but gradually urban development crept in, and we are the poorer for it.
A native landscape may take years to build and mature, but small steps can help to build for the future. Hedges, small pools, birdbaths, bird feeders and certainly planting native species will help to develop places in harmony with nature.
Who would not welcome a space that needs no fertilizing or watering beyond the precious rainfall we are given? Native plants are low maintenance, beautiful and healthful, and every time we purchase one of these plants, we are helping to encourage a more healthful and natural environment.
Sunflowers are native, and their seeds are useful for human as well as wildlife enjoyment. I would work with mine if the birds would just leave a few for me.
Joe Pye Weed gives height and color in the flower garden and has a long history of medicinal applications from Indian times on.
We are familiar with purple coneflower, asters, cardinal flower, lobelia, blue flag iris, spiderwort, liatris, all native flowers, and there are many more. Goldenrod has acquired a bad reputation as allergy-inducing, but this is not true.
Many plants regarded as weeds, such as prairie dock, sneezeweed, milkweed, vervain, bergamot, dropseed and Indian grass deserve a place in the flower bed where they encourage the birds, bees and butterflies that grace our gardens.
I am going to make a real effort next spring to avoid exotic imports that require special care and expensive supplements. Most of the native species are self-seeding, so they are a good investment. For inspiration, walk through a few of our
local parks and nature preserves, and take a hint from the plants that are growing there.
As Aldo Leopold wrote in his "The Sand Country Almanac," "When we see the land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.