Native Plant Initiative
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!
Native 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.
Protecting 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of natives planted at APCC, click here (PDF).
Visit our plant-finder site at CapeCodNativePlants.org. 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.