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When you plant a native tree or plant, you have helped create a nursery of life that supports wildlife.

“Our native oaks especially help support the wildlife in our area,” said Haywood County’s Horticulture Extension Agent Sam Marshall. “They are home to more than 400 different species of caterpillars, with a great number of caterpillars within each species. All those caterpillars help feed our native birds. We are still finding out about all the insects and other life that live in our oak trees.”

Native plants support wildlife by providing protection and a source of food in seeds and berries. The fall is the perfect time to plant native trees and plants because root systems are established during the fall and winter.

Planting native species creates a quadruple-win for the following reasons:

You will save time and money because native species generally grow better in the region where they originate.

You are establishing habitat and food sources for native wildlife in addition to providing beauty for your yard.

Trees and plants, as well as all vegetation, slow down storm water runoff which is a problem in Haywood County.

Deciduous trees reduce your energy bills by providing shade in the summer and allowing solar warmth in the winter.

What you can do now: Put the best plant in a suitable spot.

Even a native plant or tree won’t do well if it’s planted in the wrong spot and doesn’t get what it needs to survive. 

Marshall oversees Haywood County’s Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, a group of more than 100.

“This isn’t a garden club,” said Marshall. “This is a group of people with training in horticultural science that are available to provide you the information you need to troubleshoot any problems.”

Realize that not all native species are well-behaved. Some native plant species do so well that they take over an area, so ask advice on the characteristics of what you are planting.

Realize there are trade-offs. When you plant native species, you are essentially creating a “food pantry” that helps support wildlife. “Some people get upset because insects are more likely to feed on native plants. It rarely kills the plant, but the plant can look chewed up at the end of the season,” said Marshall. “A small number of non-native plants are fine as long as you are sure they're not invasive. Non-native plants won’t get eaten, but you also won’t be supporting wildlife.”

Who says--the experts:

For more about the right native trees and plants for your yard, call the Haywood County Agricultural Extension Office at 456-3575.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers: https://emgv.ces.ncsu.edu/

More on trees and plants native to the different regions of North Carolina:

https://projects.ncsu.edu/goingnative/

https://Plants.ces.ncsu.edu

Laura Armour is a freelance journalist in Haywood County and member of the WNC Climate Action Coalition. https://www.wncclimateaction.com/

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