Native plants program teaches homeowners how to help wildlife



GREENWOOD, Indiana (AP) – The carefully planted and planned restored prairie of Old City Park in Greenwood hummed and buzzed with activity.

Bees, flies and butterflies moved from flower to flower, sucking up nutrients. Stems of goldenrod, prairie clover, swamp milkweed, and purple coneflower provided a buffet of all kinds for all manner of insects. The grasses rustled and stirred in the breeze.

The prairie had been cultivated in a specific way, with over 70 carefully chosen flowering perennials, grasses and trees native to Indiana.

Not only did the plants seem attractive to passers-by, but each had a specific role in supporting the ecosystem, from insects and birds to small animals.

“Native plants are particularly important because they have evolved to be found in our region, as opposed to non-native plants or invasive plants. They have a relationship with our pollinators and our moths and butterflies, ”said Blair Beavers, deputy director and education coordinator for the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District. “They are the basis of our entire ecosystem. “

This post is making its way to homeowners in Johnson County, who are increasingly asking questions about native Indiana plants for their gardens. Plants provide a host of benefits – attractive to local wildlife, pleasing to the eye, and able to withstand hot, dry summers and thrive.

To help people better understand the benefits, Purdue Extension Johnson County has scheduled a day-long program on these flowers, herbs, and shrubs, along with tours of landscaping examples using them. The hope is to help even more people develop the native plant movement.

“People want to attract pollinators, they want to attract wildlife. People want to get rid of invasive plants and go back to native plants, ”said Sarah Hanson, director of Purdue Extension Johnson County. “I’ve seen so much interest in this lately.”

In recent years, research on native plants has highlighted the importance of using them in gardens and yards. Declining wildlife and plant populations threaten ecosystems that have thrived for centuries. Growing these types of plants provides food, shelter, and other benefits to the natural world.

Native plant communities support much greater biodiversity than introduced or non-native plants, and biodiversity is vital for a stable ecosystem, according to the Indiana Native Plant Society. A 2018 study published in the journal Biological Invasions found that there were 68% fewer caterpillar species and 91% fewer caterpillars in study areas with non-native plants compared to native hedges.

“When you’re insects that only eat certain types of things, they can survive unless you have the right plants. If the invasive plants crowd out these good native plants, it makes it even more difficult for the insects, ”said Hanson. “Then it’s a chain – the birds that eat these insects or eat native plants struggle, the animals that eat these insects don’t have enough food.”

Native plants help build habitats for countless species, and the landscaping that includes them allows stormwater to safely seep into the soil rather than flowing overheated into rivers and streams.

Because native plants are already adapted to Indiana’s unique landscape and climate, they require less watering and no fertilizers, making gardening easier.

“Native plants are an important part of a region’s geographic context – in fact, they help define it. They have proven to be able to survive in a landscape for millennia, ”said Michael Homoya, state botanist in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

As word spread about the benefits of native plant landscaping, more people have approached Purdue County Extension Johnson to ask them about how to get started, Hanson said.

Interest inspired extension organizers to create the native plant backyard landscaping program and tour.

Part of the tour will include the County Extension Office’s own rain garden, filled entirely with plants native to Indiana. The rain garden was created about three years ago as part of the office’s rainwater management program. Thanks to the extension office that maintained the garden, it was not part of any specific program, Hanson said.

“We thought it would be nice to show it to people and help them understand how rain gardens and native plants can benefit the environment,” she said.

Participants in the Native Plant Program will experience this garden and tour the rain gardens and native plantings that have been the focus of Greenwood Parks and Recreation and the Greenwood Public Library. The native plant-filled gardens outside the Library and at City Center Park provide perfect examples of landscaping using plants perfectly suited to Indiana.

“It’s impressive that the Town of Greenwood has invested the money and that people are focusing on native plants, not just the boring old landscaping. They understand the importance of native plants, ”said Hanson.

Tours will be booked through presentations by local experts in native plants. Beavers will focus on starting native plants from seed.

“Native plants work a little differently than your vegetables, so you have to plant them in a different way,” she said.

In the afternoon, the group is expected to travel to Franklin College for a tour of its native landscaping and gardens, led by Alice Heikens, a college biology professor specializing in endangered species and plant communities, with research focused on natural areas management with an emphasis on invasive species.

“Franklin College has been working hard to adapt their landscaping to get rid of invasive species, so we wanted to see what they did,” Hanson said.

The program will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on October 20, starting in Greenwood and ending in Franklin. The cost is $ 20 and only 20 places are available. Interested participants must confirm their attendance before October 7th.

Native plants and backyard landscaping program

What: A program and tour teaching people how to get rid of invasive plants and add native plants to their landscape. The event will feature guest speakers and tours of local rain gardens and other native plant habitats.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. October 20

Who: Purdue Extension Johnson County

Cost: $ 20

RSVP: before October 7

How to register: A link to register can be found at For more information, contact Sarah Hanson at [email protected] or 317-736-3724.



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