Pollinators Need Native Plants

Plants and animals take a very long time to evolve. During this time, they develop systems to use each other for food, shelter, and propagation. When new plants and animals are introduced into this system, the existing plants and animals cannot easily cope with the change. The system breaks down and the original plants and animals decline and/or die out. In order to save the existing system, we need to plant native plants in our pollinator gardens.

A Native plant has evolved in a given area over a long enough period of time that it has developed essential relationships with its environment and other organisms in that area.

Naturalized plants have evolved somewhere outside the given area but have become successfully established within the given area. Because they originally evolved outside the given area, pollinators within that area may not be able to use them.

A Variety is a plant that has developed as a random mutation in nature. Seeds from these plants will reproduce identically to the parent. It is almost always an acceptable source of food and shelter for native pollinators.

A Hybrid plant is created artificially by crossing 2 species. One or both of these species may be non-native. The breeders are usually trying to create new plants to please humans, not native pollinators.

A Cultivar is a plant selected, bred, and cultivated by humans. Its seeds do not reproduce identically to the parent.

A Host Plant is one that insects rely on as a place to lay their eggs, and as a food source for themselves and their young. 

Native plants are important because they provide high quality food and shelter for native pollinators, birds, and other animals. These plants and animals have evolved to depend on each other for survival. Some of these insects and birds have evolved to only use specific native plants (for ex. Monarch butterflies and milkweed plants). The pollinators use the nectar from native plants for food. As they feed, they pollinate the flowers, which allows the plants to develop fruit and seeds. In addition, these insects become food for birds, animals, and their young. The fruit and seeds grow the next generation of plants, and also feed the birds and other small animals. The birds and animals spread the fruit and seeds for the plants, helping them to propagate and spread. Because of this interdependency, we can only accept native plants and their varieties in the certified pollinator garden.

Hybrids and cultivars are often not useful to pollinators. The flowers may not have enough nectar to feed the pollinator. Also, a lot of hybrids have double flowers and other characteristics that make it difficult—if not impossible—for the pollinators to feed.

Last updated May 13, 2021