Natives are Nice

native plants

Understanding Native Plants and Native Plant Communities

Please read the information below before starting this unit.

What is a native plant?

A native plant is one that occurs naturally without any evidence of having been introduced (brought in) inadvertently or deliberately by human activity. As such, native plants are very well adapted to the climate and soil in which they live, and they are intricately interrelated with the environment in which they exist. Native plants in Montana are those plants that were here prior to Euro-American exploration and settlement about 300 years ago.

What is a native plant community?

A community consists of all the plants, animals, and microbes that live in an area and depend either directly of indirectly upon each other In a native plant community the plants are native plants. All of the organisms in a native plant community have "grown up" together over hundreds of years.

Why is it important to protect and preserve native plant communities?

Since early EuroAmerican explorers first came to this country, we have destroyed many native plant communities. Native plant communities have been replaced by cities, housing developments, farm land, roads, parking lots, and plants that were introduced from other locales (either by accident or by plan). We lost those native plant communities before we knew what they contained cr what they did or could do for us. Only recently have we begun to realize the value of native plant communities.

Some of the "services" provided by native plant communities include:
  1. Native plants purify water by assimilating nutrients that can cause pollution.
  2. Native plants stabilize the soil and help prevent erosion.
  3. Native plants are recognized as a major means of preventing storm damage.
  4. Native plant communities take care of themselves -- requiring little or no management such as watering, fertilizing, or pesticide application.
  5. Native plant communities provide outdoor classrooms for students and researchers.
  6. Half of our medicines still have a native plant component and more wait to be discovered.
  7. Native plant communities are essential for fish and wildlife.
  8. Native plant communities store and hold our drinking water.
  9. Native plant communities help stabilize our climate and moderate temperature extremes.
  10. Native plant communities provide recreational opportunities for thousands of people who like to fish, canoe, camp, hunt, backpack, photograph wildlife, and who just enjoy being in wild areas.

In return for these services, native plants and native plant communities ask for very little. Basically, they take care of themselves requiring little or no management, such as scheduled watering, fertilizing, and pesticide application. They just want to be left alone!

Natives am Nice Background Information Funding: Montana Native Plant Society & Lewis & Clark Conservation District.
Author: Susie Palermo, Clancy MT

Outline Activity 1 Activity 2 Activity 3 Activity 4
  Activity 5 Bibliography