Native plants are beautiful, support biodiversity, and are essential to habitat restoration. Many people don't know where to begin, so the information below is provided as helpful guides.
Butterfly Host and Nectar Plants
All too often, gardeners focus on nectar plants to attract butterflies and other pollinators to their gardens when creating a design and plant list. Butterflies and moths start as caterpillars that specialize on very specific native plants as their "host." Without those plants, there are no caterpillars and without caterpillars, there are no butterflies and moths. The PDF document below provides a partial listing of important caterpillar host plants as well as nectar plants that span the seasons.
Native Plants that Support Bees and Beneficial Insects
Bees and butterflies aren't the only insects that eat pollen and nectar -- many wasps and other predatory insects are attracted by native plants. Farmers are encouraged to plant pollinator buffers to improve pollination of crops and encourage beneficial insects to help manage crop pests. The chart below provides examples of native perennials that support bees and beneficial insects.
While native plants were "meant to be here", they have specific growing requirements in terms of sunlight and moisture as well as soil type. It can be confusing to select the right plant for the right place, so we have developed a simplified listing of plants we have available at Trailhead Nursery. For more complete information, consult the "Native Plants for Tennessee" publications on this page.
Oak Ridge National Lab has implemented the Sustainable Campus Initiative that uses native plants not only to highlight their beauty and educate staff and guests about them but to provide a unique look with additional benefits. By replacing areas planted in fescue with native landscaping, ORNL has achieved an aesthetic appeal, greater biodiversity and reduced overall maintenance needs. The posters below are a great resource.
The Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council has several excellent guides on landscaping with native plants based on regions and conditions within the state. You can download these publications for free at their website: www.tneppc.org
Landscaping for Birds
If you've read Doug Tallamy's excellent book "Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants", you'll know that most birds require insects as important protein sources during brooding. In addition to plants that support insects like caterpillars, many birds also need seeds and berries. The file below provides a list of native trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses that provide an important variety of food for birds. Why fill bird feeders when your landscape can perform that function more fully, cleanly and safely?
Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. Wild Ones is a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization. The Tennessee Valley chapter provides a broad variety of educational opportunities, including informational meetings, workshops, hikes and an annual symposium. For more information and to join, go to www.tennesseevalley.wildones.org.