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eastern columbineNative Plants

Native plants are generally defined as species that occured in North America before European settlement. Over time, they have evolved with the physical and biological factors specific to their region, such as climate, soil, rainfall, and interactions with other plants, animals, and insects that live in the area. Thus, they are uniquely adapted to the local conditions and the area’s wildlife, including important pollinators and migratory birds. Native plants generally grow well and produce showy flowers, abundant fruits and seeds, and brillant fall foliage.


Landscaping with native plants benefits the community, wildlife, and water quality, including:

  • Providing habitat for local and migratory animals; .
  • Improving water quality;
  • Reducing the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides;
  • Offering greater visual interest than turf;
  • Reducing the time and expense of mowing, watering, fertilizing and treating lawn and garden areas; and
  • Addressing problem areas including erosion, poor soils, steep slopes or poor drainage.

Tree of HeavenExotic Plants are those not native to an area. In North Carolina, exotics usually come from Asia or western Europe, regions that have similar climate and environmental conditions to those in this state. Exotics are planted intentionally as lawn or garden ornamentals, but others were introduced accidentially. Many of htese species become naturalized, which means they are able to survive, spread, and reproduce on their own. Approximately 25% of the plants grown in the US are naturalized exotics, some of which have become invasive, growing unabatedly where native plants would otherwise occur.


Invasive exotic plants are those that pose the greatest risk to the native plants and animals of North Carolina. Competitors, diseases, and insects control a plants, growth and dispersal in its native range. Over thoughsands of years, natural checks and balances develop, which greatly reduce the chance a single species will increase in number to completely dominate a plant community. Exotic plants escape natural controls and become invasive. Prolific growth by a single plant species can be harmful because forests with a limited number of plant species provide ver poor habitat for wildlife.

Native Plants and Stormwater Runoff

Native plants do a much better job of keeping soil on the ground and out of our waters. Not only do the long root systems keep soil in place, as they die, they leave deep tunnels allowing more oxygen and water to absorb into the ground. This is particularly important in the North Carolina piedmont because of the dense clay soils which make it difficult for rain water to absorb into the ground. Instead, rainwater washes over the ground picking up pollution, tearing vegetation from stream banks and waterways, and causing flooding and other potentially harmful disasters.


Links and Resources

North Carolina Native Plant Society

Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants (NCSU)

North Carolina Botanical Garden: Native Southeastern Plants for Your Garden

Invasive Species and Control Methods (Piedmont Triad Water Quality Partnership, NC Cooperative Extension)

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