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Why Native Plants?

All life on Earth depends on plants

Plants supply the oxygen we breathe, cool the surface of the planet, clean the water, and form the base of the food chain that leads to our dinner tables.

Human-caused threats, from land development to climate change, now challenge all plants on the planet and all the organisms that depend on them.

Not just any plant will do

Because species of plants and animals evolved together, the loss of a single native plant species can disrupt an intricate web supporting myriad plants and animals. For example, about 80 percent of our region’s insect species depend on particular species of native plants, and 90 percent of North American bird species feed their young with insects. What will happen to the birds as native host plants and the insects they support vanish?

If current trends continue, we may find out: Twenty-two percent of New England’s native plant species are rare or no longer found here. Thirty-one percent of plant species in the region are not native, and 10 percent of those are invasive, posing a threat to native plants.

Eastern bluebird feeds its fledgling. Oakley Originals

Plants = habitat

Over thousands of years, plants have adapted to the geology, climate, and other conditions of the environment in which they evolved. There they provide core habitat—food and shelter—for diverse other organisms that evolved with them.

At least five of New England’s defining habitat types, from alpine to estuarine, are either vanishing or imperiled by numerous threats.

We can’t survive without native plants

Of all Earth’s organisms, plants alone can transform energy from the sun into food for themselves and other forms of life. Some animal species cannot eat plants but consume insects that do, allowing plant energy to flow throughout the animal kingdom, right to our tables.

Native plants are in sharp decline throughout New England.

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginica).

If you care about native plants, join us

Explore what our conservation scientists are doing to save imperiled plants, control invasive plants, and keep common plants common. Browse our classes, programs, and family activities to dig deeper into the green world. Visit our unique native plant botanic garden. And learn how you can support our efforts to conserve New England’s native plants.

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