You may look at plants growing naturally in the woods, a meadow, or wetlands and think they are natives to Connecticut, but often this is not the case. To be a native, a plant must have grown in our region prior to European settlement. Some of the plants, trees and shrubs growing in Connecticut wild spaces are actually naturalized – they’ve become accustomed to and grow quite comfortably in our area. Other plants are invasive bullies that overtake or crowd out other plants, often natives. Why does this matter? Think bugs and evolution. Local insects co-evolved with local plants in local conditions. Each Connecticut- or Southern New England-based insect and plant may have a slightly different genetic code than the same type of insect or plant from the Mid-Atlantic region.
This is the topic of my article “In Search of Natives” in the July/August 2012 issue of Connecticut Gardener. In it you’ll find further explanations of what the term native means in regards to plants, where gardeners can find plants native to Connecticut, and where many of the natives sold by Connecticut garden centers are actually grown. Because this is a misunderstood topic, the publishers of Connecticut Gardener, Anne and Will Rowlands, have graciously posted this article online.
Habitats friendly to native flora and fauna are ever in decline. Gardeners can be front-line defenders against habitat loss by gardening organically and with more natives. These resources will provide any gardener with the knowledge and tools necessary to become a habitat defender.