Using Native Plants

To jump to a particular topic, please use these links:
Recommended Native Plants
Keystone Plants
Landscaping with Native Plants
Other plant lists

Our local vegetation evolved with our native insects, birds, and other animals to create complex food webs. Wildlife consumes fruits, nuts, and seeds for sustenance, while helping to propagate the regional vegetation. Native plants, especially some tree species like oaks, are also host to a large variety of insects, which in turn are eaten by birds and other animals. Young nestlings, in particular, must consume large numbers of insects in their first weeks of life in order to fledge and reach maturity.

Non-native vegetation can provide some fruits, nuts, and seeds, but it does not host the insects that are vital to birds and the web of life. As their seeds are spread by wildlife, many non-native plants become “invasive” by out-competing local vegetation and displacing the local ecology.

Please check out our very own Forsyth Audubon Native Plants for Birds brochure.

Photo by Barbara Driscoll

Plants native to our area are adapted to the soil and climate conditions of the area. However it is important to pick the right native plants for the variety of micro-climates on your property. Our recommended native plants list for the Piedmont tells you the sun, water and soil requirements of each plant. All the plants on our list are chosen to have benefit to wildlife, and specific information about that benefit is listed for each plant species.

The lists are ordered by scientific name to place related species next to each other.

View the list in a format compatible with smartphones and other mobile devices

View the list in a downloadable spreadsheet format

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Doug Tallamy has developed the concept of keystone species to describe the native plant genera that support the most caterpillars and thus are one of the best food sources for baby birds. The Keystone Plants spreadsheet takes all of the larval host plants from the plant lists above and then rank orders them from most caterpillars supported to least. Thus the “keystone” plants in each category are the ones at the top of each section. Tallamy writes, “Landscapes that do not contain one or more species from keystone genera will have failed food webs, even if the diversity of other plants is very high.” Thus you should consider choosing some keystone plants by reviewing the keystone spreadsheet and then you can look up detailed plant information using the two links provided in the above section.

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Are you ready to plant some natives?  Maybe you want to replace your Crepe Myrtle or boxwoods, add a good looking specimen to your yard or cover an ugly bare hill to control erosion. It can be difficult to choose what plants to use if you aren’t familiar with them.  Help is here. Photos of natives that have been planted in this area are shown, including many contributed from the home landscapes of Forsyth Audubon members.  Photos show the plants at various seasons and stages, including in bloom and fruit.

Thanks to Jean Chamberlain, Lisa Gould, Don Lendle, and Cara Woods for contributing photos.

Landscaping with Native Plants

*Dr. Tallamy is an entomology professor whose research has promoted the vital role that native plants, and in particular Keystone Species, play in native insect and bird populations.

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