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!
More from Ask EcoBeneficial!
Can You Suggest “Living Mulch” for a Garden in Illinois?
Question: I have a couple beds of Ninebarks and Viburnums and they’ve been there about two or three years. So I’m thinking it’s time to create a living mulch around them. Can you recommend a few plants for ground cover that have ecological benefits, and will fill in around these…Read More
What Are Some Deer-Resistant Flowering Native Perennials for a Wet Meadow?
Question: What are some native, deer-resistant flowering perennials for wet meadows in the Northeast? Answer: As you likely know, no plant is deer bomb-proof. In the absence of adequate forage, deer will browse just about anything. Young fawns may nibble on plants that make them sick, as they have not…Read More
Should I buy Winterberry cultivars or straight species plants? Will deer browse Winterberry?
Question: I understand that berries of some winterberry cultivars may be too big for birds and may have less nutrition. Should I buy winterberry cultivars? I am in Maryland and have not seen the straight species anywhere. Will deer browse winterberry? Answer: I prefer to use straight species plants whenever…Read More