Children learning about host plants. Photo: Carol Davit
The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Grow Native! program offers many resources to help you learn about the benefits of native plants. In addition to professional development through our Grow Native! professional membership program, workshops and other educational activities, we offer the following online resources for homeowners, land use planners, farmers, landscaping professionals, and beginning to advanced gardeners.
What Makes a Plant ‘Native’ and Why Use Native Plants?
Native plants originally occur within a region as the result of natural processes rather than human intervention. In the lower Midwest (Missouri and surrounding states), native plants have existed since prior to the time of wide-spread EuroAmerican settlement a little more than 200 years ago. While the activities of indigenous people did affect the region’s ecosystems, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that large-scale habitat alteration and the introduction of non-native plants began to significantly change the natural landscape of the lower Midwest. Native plant species in the lower Midwest have evolved here over millennia and are best adapted to the region’s climate and soil conditions. Even more importantly, native plants have co-evolved with native insect species and provide important food resources for thousands of species of invertebrates that in turn provide food for native birds and other animals.
Choosing native plants for developed and altered landscapes helps restore natural processes, rather than compete with them. Increasingly, gardeners, farmers, planners, and other landscape professionals, landowners, and nature enthusiasts in the lower Midwest are choosing native plants. The benefits of native plant use is fueling a gardening and land use movement that says “no” to insecticides and fertilizers and “yes” to biodiversity and creating more sustainable landscapes. Choosing native plants beautifies yards and other spaces, supports nature’s web of life, manages stormwater, stores carbon, and improves soil health.