Planting native trees and plants will diversify your landscape and help support wildlife.

What's old is new again when it comes to urban yards and landscapes. It's the concept of using native plants.

But what exactly defines a plant as native versus an introduced species?

The United States National Arboretum defines a native plant as one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. That's a pretty specific definition. However, look on the internet, and there are lots of different definitions of what native plant means.

If you're considering natives for your yard, don't let these abstract definitions box you into using a particular set of plants, otherwise you won’t be considered a native gardener.

In Louisiana alone, more than 2,090 native species occur naturally. So you have a really large plant palette to choose from for your yard. Incorporating one or two, or maybe even four, five or six different species into your yard will help to diversify your plant palette and be a boon to wildlife in your garden.

It is often mentioned that incorporating native species of plants into your garden helps support wildlife. How's that? Let's look at the numbers and data to support this claim. The genus Quercus, or oak trees, can support up to 534 species of additional life. This includes caterpillars that eat the foliage and birds that eat the caterpillars. Also included are the mosses and the lichens that grow on the trunks and the branches of our oaks. The genus Acer, or maples, support nearly 300 additional species of life. Ulmus, or our elms, support 213 species. Betula, or river birch, can support over 400 species of life.

These are some staggering numbers to consider for just planting a few native trees in your yard. Because is still rather warm outside, it's not quite the time to plant trees. But take this time to research which trees you may want to incorporate in late fall and early winter as the temperatures begin to cool. Making the proper selection of native trees now will make all the difference in years to come as those trees begin to grow and mature. 

One of my favorite Greek proverbs says a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

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