Why We Landscape with Native and Adaptive Plants

by Lou Ellen Clement, El Paso Master Gardener

Mtn Laurel + Butterfly

Credit: Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) by Linda Kaip, El Paso Master Gardener

Living in West Texas we are all acutely aware of our limited water resources. Many residents of El Paso are rethinking their landscapes to make them more water-wise by using plants that nature put here. “Going native” is one way to achieve a beautiful yet water-wise landscape, help maintain our natural habitats, and conserve our precious resources.

It helps to understand native and adapted plants and why they should be in our landscapes. Plants native to a specific region are those that have developed naturally for many years without human assistance. Chihuahuan Desert native plants have evolved to live in harmony with our desert climate, limited resources and indigenous wildlife. An often quoted phrase, touted by the environmentally conscious, is to “go green. Native plants are about as green as it gets.

Adapted plants are species of plants originally native to other regions of the world that have become acclimated and established in a new area. These plants thrive in the new location without being harmful to existing native plants or wildlife, and are able to grow and reproduce without human intervention.

Some plants introduced to a new geographic area may also thrive but become invasive by taxing the limited resources of the area and threatening both the native plants and wildlife. These introduced plants are not adapted.

Landscaping with native and adapted plants is a “win-win decision. Everyone benefits – our water resources, native pollinators, and ourselves as we sit back and enjoy the colorful beauty that can be our lush, desert landscape.

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