Bay-Friendly Living Tip: Plant Native

Bay-Friendly Living Tip: Plant Native 

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

It is important to remember that preserving and conserving natural plant communities doesn’t have to happen solely in a nature preserve, outside of your home or business, but indeed in your own backyard! Your swath of land, however small, is part of our greater ecosystem, and the landscaping choices you make have impacts on our Narragansett Bay and beyond. Planting native and sustainably can help protect our Bay, and have great impacts on the environment.

Red Maple (Acer rebrum), native to Southern New England

The United States has many different climate zones, with areas differing in their ability to support certain plant species. Geographic and topographic features can vary between regions, even within a state as small as Rhode Island. Southern New England’s ecosystem is characterized by certain climate, light, and soil conditions to which native shrubs and trees are well adapted. Non-native species can require extra support to thrive, such as supplemental water and fertilizers. 

In Southern New England, when we say a species is ‘native,’ we believe it to have been present prior to European settlement. These plants have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, or longer, and evolved slowly over time with little interference from human beings. Today, when planted in the right spot, native plants require far less water and fertilizer, which saves time, money, effort, and perhaps most important of all, the environment. Less fertilizer and water means fewer chemicals are running off your yard and into the Bay and watershed.*

Planting native species provides a variety of food for wildlife and encourages beneficial insects

    • Native, flowering plants are an important part of your yard plantings because they feed beneficial insects, like ladybugs and spiders, that keep harmful insects in check. 

      Black & Red Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa & arbutifolia), native to Southern New England 
    • Flowers like New England aster, milkweed and bee balm will attract birds, bees and butterflies that not only pollinate your plants, but plants all over the neighborhood, including those in your vegetable garden. Tough and adaptable, native grasses like switchgrass and little bluestem also serve as food for birds, insects, and small mammals.
    • Birdwatchers, rejoice! Insects are a principal food source for many species of birds, so if you plant a wide variety of native species that encourage local insects to thrive, you will be rewarded with a wide and unique variety of birds stopping by your yard! Native plants support 29 times the biodiversity of non-native plants, according to Dr. Douglas Tallamy of the University of Delaware. He gives us this statistic as an example: Oaks support 557 species of caterpillar (bird food), whereas non-native Zelkova trees from Asia support no species of caterpillar at all.

Eliminate invasive species and try to catch infestations early

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), native to Southern New England
    • Japanese knotweed is one of the world’s most invasive plants, and has a tenacious ability to avoid eradication measures. Oriental bittersweet, burning bush and multiflora rose are some other species to keep an eye out for in your yard. If you see these species at the nursery, choose natives over these less desirable plants. The earlier you catch the infestation, the easier it will be to handle!

These tips will get any amateur gardner started when determining what to plant.** The right native plants will grow in your yard with ease, leading to less water and no fertilizer needed to keep them thriving, and therefore fewer nutrients running off* into Narragansett Bay.

Have a specific question about replacing non-native species in your yard with native species?
Consult Save The Bay’s Riverkeeper or the URI Cooperative Extension.

 

*Runoff pollution is a major cause of both fish kills and beach closures!
**Before altering a natural vegetated area near a coastal feature or freshwater wetland, be aware that permits are required for certain activities in these areas. 


Other Resources:

What to Plant, EPA: bit.ly/epaplanting
R.I. Native Plant Guide, URI: bit.ly/rinative
Coastal Plant Guide, CRMC: bit.ly/coastalplant
Mass. Prohibited Plant List, Mass. DEP: bit.ly/PlantsToAvoid
Pest Identification, URI Plant Protection Clinic: bit.ly/urippc

List of retailers that sell Rhody Native plants:
http://rinhs.org/who-we-are-what-we-do/programs-projects/rhody-native-home/locations/
List of Mass. retailers that sell native plants: http://www.plantnative.org/nd_kytomt.htm#mahttps://grownativemass.org/Great-Resources/nurseries-seed

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.

Map

March 25, 2020

Dear Friends, Supporters and Community Members, 

Save The Bay’s facilities in Providence, Newport and Westerly will remain closed through April 10, 2020 in response to COVID-19. All volunteer, internship and public programs will remain suspended during this time.

Our staff remains dedicated to working on our mission to protect and improve Narragansett Bay from home. As always, we are accessible via email (listed on our website), or on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.


Students of all ages are invited to tune in to our Breakfast by the Bay live stream on Save The Bay’s Facebook page every weekday at 10 a.m. Join us to learn about Bay species, habitats and more!

Unable to watch the video live? Catch the video later in the day on our Youtube page