NEWTOWN — The Conservation Commission, in association with the Monroe Conservation Commission, has prepared a Native Plant Resource Guide to encourage developers, landscape architects, municipal workers, landscapers and homeowners to use native plants that naturally occur in the area.
The guide also provides guidance on plants and their benefits, landscape uses and local sources for native plants and is available at www.newtownconservation.org.
In a press release, the commission said, “Our recommendation for commercial, municipal, and residential landscapes is 70 percent native plants, trees and shrubs to help mitigate habitat loss; a higher percentage is encouraged and essential for commercial and municipal properties.
“Herbaceous plants, trees, and shrubs should be straight-species or wild-type, not cultivars that have been crossbred or hybridized. Breeding plant cultivars may change attributes of flowers and leaves, often eliminating what makes a plant attractive, recognizable, and beneficial to pollinators as well as caterpillars who innocuously feed on the plants and are a critical food source for birds and other animals.”
The Conservation Commission recognizes that habitat loss is one of the main causes of insect-pollinator decline.
“More and more of our natural spaces are lost to development, replaced by hardscapes, introduced ornamentals, and lawns, dead zones for wildlife. It has become critical to provide indigenous plants, especially our native trees, to help our struggling pollinators, birds, and other animal species including we humans.”
Non-native plants, also known as exotic or alien plants, are not naturally found in the local area.
They were introduced by human intervention, either intentionally or accidentally and include agricultural crops, ornamental plants, naturalized plants (including lawn grasses) and imports that prove to be invasive.
Unlike native plants, non-native plants did not evolve along with native fauna for mutual benefit.
Of course, there are exceptions, especially for closely related species and while many non-native plants are benign for aggressive spread, they now dominate landscapes.
As with plant cultivars, most offer little or no benefit to pollinators, birds or other wildlife.
Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home, has expressed his concern, “We are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban garden on which our wildlife increasingly depends.”
While most people don’t cultivate invasive plants that are listed on the Connecticut Invasive Plant List and banned by state statute, several plants, listed as having invasive tendencies, are still being sold.
The list is available at cipwg.uconn.edu/invasive_plant_list.
The Newtown and Monroe Conservation Commissions have partnered to bring this important issue to town representatives and commissions.