The Natives Project has been a two year long research project putting together a worksheet that lists all of Southwest Virginia's Native plants, where to buy plants and seeds, all underpinned with information to help our communities to transform our backyards and cities with our native plants and trees. This very huge and in-depth project was led by our Master Gardener, Sharon Burnham. She had a team of relentless Master Gardeners as well as members of the Roanoke Master Naturalists, Blue Ridge Wildflower Society, Plant SWVA Natives, and other dedicated gardeners to help compile information so that it could not only be published here but for Plant Virginia Natives Organization as well.
Get your own SWVA Natives Guide by downloading it here!
What is a native Plant? In order to be considered a native plant, it must have been established before the European settlement of North America. This is the simple definition; however; a more precise definition comes from the Department of Conservation and Recreation: "Native species evolved within specific regions and dispersed throughout their range without known human involvement. They form the primary component of the living landscape and provide food and shelter for native animal species. Native plants co-evolved with native animals over many thousands of years and have formed complex and interdependent relationships . . . Many animals (and insects) require specific plants for their survival.”
Why do we need Natives? Have you noticed in your own yard that the number of birds are declining? What about moths, bugs, and butterflies? The very basic reason for this is because the insects that the birds need to survive do not have plants/trees/bushes to eat, grow, and propagate. The fewer the insects, the fewer the birds. The same goes for our bees. If they don't have the nectar to feed their young, they die or simple move away. Foreign plants, trees, and flowers do not feed our wildlife....the natives do. We need them back!
What are the Benefits? Other than the obvious benefits cited above, if you plant a native:
What can you do to help? Of course, many of the Master Gardeners throughout the state of Virginia are making changes to their gardens, but everyone can make changes. Even simple ones go a long way. Find a plant you like and buy one! We have an Excel Worksheet with all of our ferns, trees, flowers, and bushes listed. There are links to view images and read more about each of them. If you have questions about which one(s) would be best for your site, give us a call at the Help Desk. Also, a recent addition to our knowledge is the Alliance of Native Seed Keepers who have a website of dozens of native seeds for sale.
The Survey mentioned in the introduction has been completed and published. This is a list of nurseries to find native seeds and plants in the Roanoke Valley. It's purpose is to help the public find the plants they want. As interest in native plants grows, we hope this will aid nurseries in knowing what native plants to sell.