photo - native pink pedel flower with red prickly center, with monarch butterfly and bumble bee looking to get nectar or pollen from this wildflower

Wild About Wildflowers and Pollinators

Want help building a pollinator garden on your public-facing property? Check out the Monarchs and Milkweed program from the Louisville Zoo! Click here!

When the ground thaws for springtime, many of us consider new landscape plantings around our homes. It’s wonderful to experience the majesty of nature in spring bloom in our own backyard.

While making your gardening plans, it’s important to understand the effect of what you plant on our local ecosystem. Many of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are non-native species from other countries. While they may be nice to look at, these exotics are not as beneficial to the ecosystem as native plant species. They can be more demanding of care and resources, and many have become invasive and are out competing native species.

By planting native species, habitat is created and ecological biodiversity (the variety of
life in a particular ecosystem) can be restored. Native wildflowers, shrubs and trees also offer many advantages over planting non-native species including:

• low maintenance
• low water consumption
• excellent drought tolerance
• adaptations to heat and/or cold extremes
• no need for fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides
• nearly yearlong color from spring flowers, foliage and fruits, to brilliant seasonal autumnal hues

Along with these benefits, native plants provide vital habitat and food for native wildlife species, especially pollinators like ants, bees, wasps, flies, birds, bats, beetles, butterflies and moths. Pollinators provide an essential and incredibly valuable ecosystem service. These pollinators visit flowers in their search for food such as nectar and pollen. During a flower visit, a pollinator may accidentally brush against the flower’s reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen from a different flower. The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed.

This pollination is a keystone process that is an integral component of natural ecosystems, agriculture and critical for food production. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators. Approximately 80 percent of the world’s flowering plant species require pollination by animals. Approximately 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. Over 100 crop species in North America require a visit from an insect pollinator to be productive. Insect pollinated crops, including food, medicines, dyes, and fabric fibers in North America are worth almost $30 billion annually.

Now that you know why native plants are so important, here are ten great native plant species from Kentucky to create a native landscape around your home. Plants have a variety of needs such as sunlight/shade, soil moisture, etc. Be sure to consult a plant nursery professional for choosing the right species for your site

1. Any of the milkweed species: butterfly, purple, common, swamp (Asclepias spp.)
2. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
3. Scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma)
4. Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
5. spice bush (Lindera benzoin)
6. Any of the blazing stars species (Liatris spp.)
7. Wild bergamot (Monarda fi stulosa)
8. Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
9. Wild blue indigo (Baptista australis)
10. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum)