An Introduction to Native Plants

Julie Slavet
Jun 3, 2014

The native environment is important to the health of our watershed.  Native plants offer benefits to the environment that their competitors may diminish. Not only do they make our projects more beautiful, they offer functionality such as erosion control and increased habitat for native pollinators. Native plants absorb and filter rainwater. They are an essential addition to any stormwater management project.

Since we have planted natives in our riparian buffers– Cedarbrook Elementary, Glenside Elementary and Abington Jr. High– and rain garden projects–Olney Rec Center and Vernon Park, we get a lot of questions about native plants. To answer your questions, we’ve put a native plant fact blog together for you!

Intern Amanda getting ready to plant natives at our Phase 2 planting at Abington Jr. High

What’s a native plant?

A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention.

Why are native plants important?

When referring to diversity in humans, one is usually referring to a group of people from many different places, with origins all over the world. However, it doesn’t work that way in the plant world, as hundreds of variations in species originate from one local area. While biodiversity does include a large variety of species, it is most productive and healthy when these species originate from the same area, as these species evolved to depend upon each other.

Examples of these inter-dependent relationships:

The Monarch butterfly female only lays her eggs on the underside of leaves of Milkweed plants. This is due to a chemical that the larvae ingest from the Milkweed that makes the butterfly toxic to predators.

Native shrubs and trees provide 35 times more caterpillars than exotic species, which in turn supports a larger and more diverse bird population.

Many birds depend on specific insects for their dietary needs, insects that also are specifically dependent on their native plants. Native plants serve as the base of their ecosystem’s food cycle.

List of common natives in our area: 
Native Plants
Native Plants

Northern Blue Flag(1), Sugar Maple (2), blackberries and raspberries (3), Rosa Carolina, Rosa palustris, and Rosa virginiana (Roses) (4),Strawberry Bush (5), Virgins Bower (6), Angelica and Cow-Parsnip (7), American Bittersweet (8), Native Bush Honeysuckle (9), Indian Grass (10), Native Grapes (11)

Native Plants

What are invasive plants?

An invasive plant is one that is alien to the local environment and aggressively takes over a habitat or ecosystem.  They are capable of rapid growth and easily adapt to any environment. These species dominate their environment causing ecological disturbances that negatively affect the surrounding community and potentially lead to the decline of the native species.

Invasive plants commonly found in the Philadelphia region:


Giant Hogweed (1), Reed Canary Grass (2), Golden Bamboo (3),  Porcelain Berry (4), Japanese Honeysuckle(5), Burning Bush, Tree of Heaven, Norway Maple, Multiflora Rose

If you’re interested in learning even more about native plants, visit the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society website.

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