Driving through the rural southeastern part of the United States, you pass ghostly scenes that are composed entirely of green. You are looking at a non-native plant that was introduced into the U.S from Japan in 1876 and used the 1930’s to control erosion. It’s kudzu!
Kudzu is an invasive weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly, it kills them by heavy shading. It even covers entire buildings. Kudzu’s environmental and ecological damage results from acting through “interference competition.” Kudzu competes with native plants for light, water, and soil nutrients. It blocks another plant’s access to these vital resources by growing over them and shading them with its leaves. Plants then die as a result of suffocation and starvation.
You, on the other hand, would be delighted if you could get that pretty perennial you picked up at the local big box store to last through the first season. Not every plant you put in a hole in your backyard is meant to be there. Plants are rather finicky about their habitat. Most plants require specific growing conditions: soil nutrients, water, light, temperature, etc… You will have the best success with plants that are meant to grow in your area…native plants.Native or indigenous plants are adapted to the local soil, rainfall, light and temperature conditions, and have developed natural defenses to withstand many types of insects and diseases. By picking native plants that suit local conditions, you can reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizers, pesticides and watering. This ecologically sound practice also saves time and money. Native plants provide food and cover for local wildlife like butterflies, birds, frogs, turtle and small mammals.
The Maryland Native Plant Society provides information about choosing native plants and gives resources for non-profits and commercial sellers of native plants in this area. Here’s a list of some of the most popular plants that grow well in the Baltimore area. I’ve given both the common and Latin names as many plants are known more by one or the other:
Azalea (numerous varieties)
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Canadensis)
Black-eyed Susan (rudebeckia hirta) It’s our state flower!
Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Coralbells (Heuchera americana)
Coreopsis (several varieties)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
Purple cone flower(Echinacea purpurea)
and 25 varieties of ferns!
These plants also are perennial, which means they will come back year after year without you having to do anything but enjoy them.
If you are growing in other parts of the country, you can find native plants for your area here.
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