What Are Native Plants?
A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. The plants present at the time Europeans arrived in North America are considered native to Arkansas.
Why Are Native Plants a Good Choice?
- Arkansas’s native plants are uniquely adapted to live with our soils, climate, and wildlife. Some benefits include: Save Water – Once established, many Arkansas native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall, saving our valuable water resources and money too.
- Lower Maintenance – Native plants do best with some attention and care, but require less water, fertilizer, pruning, fewer or no pesticides, and less of your time to maintain.
- Reduce Chemicals – Native plants have developed their own defenses against pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural control take over and keeps chemical out of our creeks and watersheds. Invite Wildlife – Birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects all prefer native plants and many actually depend on them for stages of their life cycle. Help Arkansas pollinators and they will return the favor by setting more fruit in your garden while other wildlife will keep your landscape free of mosquitoes and plant-eating bugs.
- Support Local Ecology – While creating native gardens will never replace all the lost natural habitats, planting yards, parks, and roadsides with native plants can help provide an important bridge to nearby remaining wild areas. Recommend native plants to homeowner associations, neighbors, and other local land-use planning opportunities.
- Reduce Invasive Species – Gardening with native plants helps lessen the introduction and spread of invasive species. Many of the invasive species we struggle with today were intentionally introduced as gardening plants. The same characteristics that make a low-maintenance garden plant – hardy, fast-growing, and easy to care for – often allow that plant to grow in natural areas and replace native vegetation. Check the contents of “wildflower” seed mixes carefully; many species in these mixes may not be Arkansas natives.
- A Sense of Place – Native plant gardens maintain a sense of place. Buying the same commercial nursery plans no matter where you live might be easy, but gardens all over the country end up looking exactly the same. Native plants allow you to appreciate the unique landscape of your area.
Is There A List of Native Arkansas Plants for Gardens?
Our botanist has put together a list of plants native to large portions of Arkansas that should do well on sites with the appropriate amount of sun and moisture. The order of the list follows the new Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas (see resources below). You can download the complete list as a PDF by clicking on the link below:
Can't I Just Dig Up Native Plants in The Wild?
Digging up native plants causes several problems: 1) it reduces the natural population and consequently reduces the diversity within that population; 2) nature is likely to "fill the vacuum" you create when you dig up plants with different species, often invasive ones; 3) wild collected plants usually do not perform as well in a garden as those propagated in a nursery or grown from seeds or cuttings.
Where Are More Resources To Learn More About Native Plants and Gardening?
Arkansas Native Plant Society
The Society promotes 1) the preservation, conservation, study, and enjoyment of the native plants of Arkansas, 2) the education of the public regarding the value of native plants and their habitats, and 3) the publication of related information, including the new Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas. Visit their website to purchase a copy and to find more information about local native plant suppliers.
Audubon Arkansas - Native Plants for Birds and Butterflies
includes a downloadable database of plants
Find Native Plants - Arkansas Native Plants
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Arkansas Recommended
ANHC Native Plant Photo Gallery
What Can Students and Teachers Do Wth a Schoolyard Garden?
Below are downloaded resources including activities and information about how a schoolyard garden can be used across the curriculum and benefit all the students.
Outdoor Classroom Topics and Tools (178 KB)
Schoolyard Wetlands (5076 KB)
The Book Of Stuff To Do Outside (3840 KB)