Many of North America’s outdoor spaces have transformed from diverse natural gardens of native plants to mono-cultured lawns and sandy schoolyards. Environments lacking in biological diversity are susceptible to numerous pest and other problems. Planting native plant species at school and in backyards reduces use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, attracts wildlife and increases human awareness of nature.
Better for the Environment
Because native plants evolved in specific areas without human help, they are adapted to native insects, soil conditions and rain patterns and do not need fertilization, pesticides or daily watering. Reducing the need for chemicals helps the environment by reducing runoff from heavily treated lawns into natural waterways. Most pesticides and fertilizers are petroleum-based, so using fewer chemicals uses less oil. Replacing a patch of backyard lawn with a native plant habitat cuts down on mowing, which reduces energy use and noise pollution.
When tracts of undeveloped land are cleared to make way for homes, roads, schools or shopping centers, the wildlife once living on the land loses an important habitat. Restoring some of the lost habitat by creating a native plant habitat in school playgrounds or backyards helps wildlife in numerous ways. Wildlife depends on native plants for survival. Migrating butterflies expect nectar from native plants and migratory birds also pass through to raise their young. Placing even a small planter of native flowers on your doorstep could provide enough food to sustain a butterfly until the next planter of native flowers and so on through the journey. Planting native berry-bearing bushes provides a natural food source and habitat for migratory birds.
Connects Humans to Nature
Connecting with the natural world can be a stress reducer for adults, and as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service points out, nature is important to a child’s social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual development. Yet today’s high-tech world makes losing touch with nature all too easy, and planting native plants on school grounds and in yards provides opportunities for humans to reconnect with the natural world. For example, watching a nesting migratory bird raise its young outside your window allows you to intimately experience the natural cycle of life.
Conservation of Native Plant Species
Since native plants evolved together, they are adapted to growing together and seldom crowd or overgrow each other--rather, each plant has its own place in the native landscape. Non-native plant species often perform too well in new environments and become invasive. Invasive plants grow so rapidly, they often overtake native species and can cause extinction among native species if not controlled. Planting native plant species in North American backyards and schoolyards can reduce the appearance of invasive species and helps re-establish native habitats.