Native Plant Initiative

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Why native plants?

Native plants are the cornerstone of natural ecosystems. Native plant species are well-adapted to their growing region and have co-evolved with insects and other wildlife for which they are a source of food, cover and nesting habitat. Native plants have specialized relationships with pollinators and other insects, and these relationships are what keeps nature in balance and supports healthy ecosystems.

Native plants are the cornerstone of any ecological-friendly landscape. Many native plants are drought tolerant, salt tolerant, and thrive in the “thin” soils found on Cape Cod. Native plants are as attractive as any plant, and are reflective of the Cape’s natural beauty. By planting native species appropriate for Cape Cod, you can conserve water, avoid pesticide and fertilizer use, and support pollinators and birds. 

Native Plants
Native plants are those best adapted to thrive in the region where they are found. Many Cape Cod native plant species are tolerant of drought and salt spray and thrive in the Cape’s poor acidic soils. Properly located in the landscape according to their growing requirements (“right plant, right place”), native plants generally require less water and no fertilizers or pesticides once established. Eliminating the need to fertilize or apply pesticides helps protect our groundwater, ponds, and coastal bays. Selecting drought-tolerant species also conserves water. All of this translates into a healthy, beautiful landscape!

Homegrown National ParkNative plants have another benefit: they provide natural food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Traditional landscapes (for example, turf lawns and non-native exotic species) constitute a virtual wasteland to wildlife, particularly birds. Recent studies at the University of Delaware indicate that our favorite bird populations are at risk due to loss of habitat through development and lack of adequate insect food to feed their young. Native plants support the highest diversity and biomass of butterfly and moth larvae (caterpillars) — and 96% of our terrestrial bird species rely upon squishy, soft, nutrient-rich caterpillars to feed their young. For a fuller understanding of the value of this connection, listen to this webinar with Dr. Doug Tallamy, hosted by APCC and The 300 Committee Land Trust in February 2020.

Pollinator Pathway Cape CodProtecting native pollinators is critically important for the success of crops, plant reproduction in wild areas and backyard vegetable gardens. Well-designed pollinator gardens featuring native plants offer alluring gardens that bloom all season long and provide critical oases for native pollinators. Help us build a pollinator pathway on Cape Cod. Learn more here. If you already plant for pollinators, get on the map!

Choosing to “go native” in your landscape also helps protect the Cape from the introduction of non-native plant species that may become invasive. For every category of plant, shrub, or tree, there are attractive native plant species. Nursery growers will provide wider ranges of native species if consumer demand is there — so ask your favorite retail nursery to stock more of the native species you want. If they know you want them, they’ll ask their growers to supply them!

At APCC’s Living Landscape Laboratory, we’re working to convert lawn area into display gardens of native plants. If you’d like a tour of APCC’s grounds, contact Kristin Andres, Associate Director for Education: [email protected]. For a list of natives planted at APCC, click here (PDF).

Native Garden Design Examples

Cape Cod Native Plants

Visit our plant-finder site at Here you can find the right native plant for the right place. While not all native plants listed are indigenous to Cape Cod, they are suitable for Cape gardens and managed landscapes.