Michigan native species resources can help you make smart choices for the environment

Online resources are available for those looking for information native species.

Michigan native plants are those that have naturally co-evolved with Michigan plants and wildlife species over thousands of years and which have existed in the state prior to European settlement.

There are so many benefits to using native plants. When compared to non-native plants, native plants are:

  • Better adapted to local growing conditions (soil, sunlight, weather, pollinators, pests)
  • Well-matched with existing environmental conditions and therefore are in need of less water, fertilizer, pesticide and maintenance inputs over time once they are established
  • Able to withstand less environmental, insect and disease damage than non-native plants because they are adapted to the insects and diseases in that area
  • Able to create ideal environments (higher quality food and habitat) for native pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife
  • Less likely to be invasive when planted in the right place

A great resource which can help you select plants is Michigan State University’s Native Plants and Ecosystem Services website. The regional plant lists section provides recommendations for Michigan’s southern and northern Lower Peninsulas and the Upper Peninsula. Plant tables for wildflowers, ferns, trees/shrubs/vines and grasses/sedges/rushes identify how much sun and moisture each needs and indicates the flower color and average plant height. There are also Plant Facts which include pertinent information for many native plants.

An excellent educational resource which explains the many benefits of growing native plants in a variety of settings (agricultural, urban, suburban, and semi-natural and natural landscapes) and gives pointers on selecting native plants is available through the Michigan State University Extension Bookstore publication E3167 entitled, Native Plants and Ecosystems Services: Producing Win-Win Solutions for Agriculture, Communities and the Environment.

Native plants can also be excellent attractors of pollinators and beneficial insects. Beneficial insects provide us with free pest management services by feeding on the harmful insects that eat our ornamental and crop plants. Consult the Michigan State University Extension resource, Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants, available for free download from the Gardening in Michigan web site.

Michigan Natural Features Inventory also offers a variety of native plant-related data resources which provide information on Michigan special plants, Michigan natural communities, rare species explorer, circa 1800 vegetation maps and watershed element data.

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership has put together a list of native plants suitable for inland lake shorelines for those specifically interested in shoreline plants.

The MSU Extension website also has a number of articles on native plants, including:

There are also other invasive plant resources are available:

Invasive species are becoming more and more of a threat to Michigan’s native plant communities in the recent past. For resources on invasive species, see the MSU Extension article, “Online resources available for identification and control of Michigan invasive plant species.”

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