Want a healthy yard? Plant some of these NJ native plants
A law recently signed by Gov. Phil Murphy creates a labeling system and marketing campaign similar to "Jersey Fresh" to help encourage and promote the sale of more native plants and raise awareness among consumers.
There is an increased demand for native plants because of their benefits that will hopefully lead to more New Jersey nurseries growing and selling them, said Karen Walzer at Barnegat Bay Partnership.
She said this advertising, marketing and labeling program will help connect growers with people who want to buy native plants.
Barnegat Pay Partnership's website is a site developed for the entire state of New Jersey. It has great resources and tools that people can use to help them landscape for a healthier environment in New Jersey.
Walzer said one of tools that is very popular is a searchable plant database that has over 350 New Jersey native species in it that people can search for, then buy and plant in their yards.
Why are native plants important?
Walzer said native plants provide the state with important environmental and economic benefits as well as add beauty to people's yards.
They create habitat for native wildlife. They also help clean and conserve our water and they help reduce the cost and environmental impacts that are associated with the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Native plants are perfectly adapted to the climate and soil conditions of New Jersey so they've evolved over thousands of years to have natural defenses to plant diseases and harmful insects, she said.
"When the right native plant is put in the right place, it's going to thrive with minimal care, reducing, even eliminating your need to water or fertilize or use pesticide," Walzer said.
Since they are native, they lessen the need for people to use chemicals. They keep New Jersey's waters cleaner and healthier by reducing pollution that stormwater can carry from yards to streams, rivers and bays.
Native plants in New Jersey
There are over 2,000 native plants in New Jersey. Walzer said not all of them, however, are meant to be grown, sold or planted in someone's yard. Of the 2,000, about 350 native plant species are in a searchable database at www.jerseyyards.org.
Walzer said the common milkweed is the "poster child" of the native plants because they provide important habitat. She said they are the host plants for the monarch butterflies which are declining right now in the state.
The plant's nectar is a food source for butterflies, native bees, bumblebees and honeybees. When monarch butterfly larvae ingest the milky sap, the cardiac glycosides in the sap make the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to birds and other predators. Milkweed is best used in wildlife gardens and meadows.
Goldenrods are also popular native plants as well as joe-pye weeds and oak trees. Oak trees support over 500 species of insects that birds will feed on and supports pollination services.
Are New Jersey native plants endangered?
About one-third of New Jersey native plants have been classified as endangered or of special concern, according to the State Natural Heritage Program. They are under threat because of many reasons such as:
Habitat Destruction: This is caused by development. There's also the pressure of pollution.
Invasive Plant Species: Walzer said many invasive plants are used in New Jersey. Invasive means they are not from our area but have rather been introduced to our area. They become so invasive at the point where they escape into the wild and starts displacing our native plants.
Animals depend on our native plants for food, nesting and shelter. When the invasive plants displace them, the entire ecosystem becomes disruptive.