Native Plants and Soil
Could you discuss the benefits of planting natives in relation to what happens underground – the nutrients, fungi, etc that last for thousands of years….?
You are right – there is a lot going on underground with native plants!
Some native plants, such as many prairie plants, have very deep root systems, far deeper than those of exotic ornamental plants. These deep roots render the plants much more drought-resistant than shallow rooted plants. These roots are also very effective at stabilizing the soil around them and slowing or preventing soil erosion, especially important after flooding events.
The vast majority of plants have natural, mutualistc associations with beneficial fungi in the soil, known as mycorrhizae. Some mycorrhizae attach externally to plant roots and some enter the cells of a plant’s root system. It is symbiotic relationship where the plant gains nutrients from the fungi and vice-versa.
Mycorrhizae are thought to evolve natively with certain plants around them. And different plant species associate with different species of mycorrhizae. For example, the mycorrhiza found on the roots of a pine will be different from that found on the roots of an orchid. Some plants, like some of our native Lady Slipper Orchids, can not be grown with that mycorrhizal association. The complexities of these relationships are not yet well understood, but there is a strong case for growing native plants which have evolved in native soils.
Thanks for the great question!