Choosing Native Plants – Benefits of native plants

big rain garden overview copyNative plants are ideal for home gardens. They provide interest and diversity to a landscape and create habitat for wildlife. These plants thrive in our nutrient-poor soils, unique temperature and moisture conditions, and rarely, if ever, need fertilizer. Native plants usually don’t succumb to fungi and molds, which occur naturally in our region. Besides improving water quality by filtering out pollutants and sediment, some of the other benefits of native plants on shoreline properties include:

  • Increased soil stability. The best way to maintain soil stability is to retain existing native vegetation. Plant roots can reinforce the soil, increasing the lateral soil sheer strength and cohesion during wet or saturated conditions. In addition, plants absorb and remove water from soils. Evergreen trees and shrubs are ideal choices since they continue to use water from the soil even in our wet winter months when deciduous plants have gone dormant.
  • Increased shade. Temperature and moisture conditions on beaches are greatly impacted by the availability of shade from overhanging vegetation. Sand lance and surf smelt lay their eggs on the highest part of the beaches just below or among driftwood. In 2001, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Dan Penttila found much higher mortality of spawning sites on sun-exposed beaches than on shady beaches. Forage (or bait) fish such as
    these are an important part of the food chain that supports marine mammals and salmon. Many other species dependent on cool, moist environments experience increased stress or mortality when tree cover is lost.
  • Increased salmon food. Marine fish, like salmon, have been found to eat insects from the terrestrial environment that are provided by overhanging vegetation. More research is still needed to determine the true extent of salmon dependence on these terrestrial bugs. However it is believed that as vegetation is eliminated along our marine shorelines, the food supply is diminished for a range of fish.