It was believed that only native plants have a positive impact on their ecosystem, including improving air quality, lower maintenance and a natural habitat for wildlife. However, new research is finding that non-native plants are adapting to integrate into new ecosystems.
There is a minority of non-native plants that are highly invasive, such as Scotch Broom (Cyticus scoparius). The minority can threaten biodiversity and human well-being. However, most non-native plants are a benefit to their new ecosystems and positively affect human-life. These non-native plants have evolved to benefit their ecosystems and are now naturalized plants.
Naturalized plants support the life of other flora and fauna by 1) providing habitat and food to rare fauna, 2) substituting extinct flora, 3) filling in a need or desirable function, and 4) evolving to climate and environmental changes faster than most native plants can.
Some examples to consider of flora and fauna that have integrated into new ecosystems are the Honey Bee, Ginkgo biloba and Evergreen Dogwood. The vulnerable honeybee is a necessity to life of flora and fauna. Yet, the honeybee is not native to the US. Pilgrims brought bees in crates on ships from Europe for honey. Bees have naturalized and are now a vital part of our ecosystem.
The Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgophyta) is the oldest living tree species and the only one in its division. Its origin is unknown but was first found in China, although it is not clear if this was due to nature or has human assistance. The Ginkgo has naturalized in the US. The tree’s nuts have several health benefits to humans, including memory enhancement and protects nerve cell damage, thus, decreasing Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Evergreen Dogwood, nicknamed Empress of China (Cornus elliptica) is a flowering tree from Eastern Asia and Western China. The Evergreen Dogwood supports its ecosystem by blooming flowers for nectar and producing edible strawberry-like fruit in the early summer.
In conclusion, do not fear integrating naturalized plants with local plants in your GardenPort™. Depending on your climate and needs, you can create a beautiful garden with variety.