Monarch caterpillar on butterfly weed. Photo: Bruce Schuette

Grow Native! Program Recognizes 20th Anniversary of Promoting Native Plants

July 17, 2020 | News

The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s native plant marketing and education program promotes natives for beautifying landscapes and supporting nature’s web of life. Read about the first 20 years of the program, and visit grownative.org and Grow Native! on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a wealth of free native plant resources. Videos on native landscaping are also available via YouTube.

Jefferson City, MO (April 22, 2020)—Monarch butterflies, bees, songbirds, and other cherished wildlife depend on native plants to survive. Yet, for most of the history of European settlement in the United States, exotic plants like hostas and petunias have been the mainstay of home landscaping.

Twenty years ago, however, Grow Native!® was born, with the goal of changing conventional horticulture and other landscaping applications to embrace the value and beauty of natives. Since then, this native plant marketing and education program has nurtured dramatic growth in the native plant industry, providing benefits to land, biodiversity, and people.

The importance of native plants to healthy ecosystems, pollinators, and a stable food supply for people has been elevated at a national level in recent years, with public concern over the dramatic decline of monarch butterflies and populations of native bees and other pollinating insects.

In addition, the work of Dr. Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist with the University Delaware, has significantly raised national awareness of the critical links between specific native host plants and the butterfly and moth caterpillars that depend on their foliage for food—these insect larvae in turn serving as crucial food for songbird young and many other wildlife species.

“The Grow Native! program and its exceptional work in the lower Midwest,” said Tallamy, “has also been an important factor in the growing national movement to make landscaping at home and at work full of as many native plants as possible to sustain the natural world that sustains us.”

Over the first 11 years of Grow Native!, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, which administered the program, developed extensive native plant marketing and educational materials and programming, created a line of native plant tags for growers to use to increase the prominence of natives in the marketplace, and fostered the creation of the Missouri Native Seed Association to ensure availability of source-identified, plentiful native seed.

In 2011, a new home in the private sector was sought for the program, and MDC and a transition team of native plant professionals chose the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Since 2012, this now 54-year-old nonprofit conservation organization and land trust has expanded Grow Native! to serve not just Missouri, but also surrounding states.

The Missouri Prairie Foundation produces an ever-growing array of Grow Native! print and digital educational materials for consumers, has increased visibility of the 150+ Grow Native! professional members in the lower Midwest, and has cultivated collaborations with municipalities and other partners to spread the vital importance of the use of native plants in altered and developed landscapes.

In 2015, the organization spearheaded the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force, an interdisciplinary group that advocates for statewide early detection and control of invasive plants, and administers the task force’s work through Grow Native!

“Grow Native! encourages citizens to use native plants in their landscapes and generates excitement about natives through its educational events, plant sales, and social media posts,” said Mervin Wallace, owner of Missouri Wildflowers Nursery and longtime Grow Native! professional member. “The plant sales that MPF organizes and promotes continue to be among the largest income-producing sales in which our nursery participates.”

For a list of upcoming Grow Native! events and many digital resources, including a searchable native plant database and resource guide to suppliers of native plants, seeds, trees, and shrubs, visit www.grownative.org.

Photo: Bruce Schuette

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