Local environmental organizations want you to know how important it is to plant and preserve native plants. The new region-wide public education effort, beginning Sept. 1, Plant NOVA Trees, includes this year’s Celebration of Trees. Many events are planned September through November. In a collaborative effort, numerous organizations are pooling their resources to offer hosted events with the aim of reversing the decline of native plants and wildlife in Northern Virginia.
Celebration of Trees, part of a five year focused drive, seeks to reach out to residents, businesses, communities in general, and to climate vulnerable communities in particular, to significantly increase and preserve native tree canopy in northern Virginia. The hope is that the campaign will encourage everyone to install native plants as the first step toward creating wildlife habitat and functioning ecosystems on their own properties.
A key knowledge point in understanding the importance of native plants is the recognition that native plant species co-evolved with native animal species over many millions of years. Plants provided food and shelter for animals creating a complex, interdependent relationship between many species.
The relationship between native milkweed plants and Monarch butterflies is just one of many such dependent relationships in the natural world. A high percentage of insects are known to specialize in particular host plants and cannot eat, grow or reproduce on non-native plants. If host native plants are pushed out by over competing invasive plants, the related native insects could die out. Scientists have already documented a significant decline in insect populations in our part of the world, referred to as the “insect apocalypse.”
Not a fan of insects and wondering why you should care about their loss? Take a moment to consider insects’ role in assuring the continuation of our plant food resources and the lives of animals that sustain human life. Birds depend on insects to survive and raise their young. Studies document bird and animal species decline in areas overcome by non-native, invasive plant species.
What can property owners do to help? Plant at least one native tree now, and replace non-native trees when they die with native species. Consider converting some lawn are to beds of native plants. Your conversion to a native landscape can be gradual. Experts say, every native plant helps. Not sure what to plant? For a list of native trees, shrubs, and perennials and their preferred growing conditions, go to https://www.plantnovanatives.org/. Need help on tree basics? Read more at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/publicworks/trees
Report your planting at Virginia Forestry’s My Tree Counts https://arcg.is/WryDG.
Consider volunteering in your community to plant trees or remove non-native plant species. A calendar of tree events open to all is available at https://www.plantnovatrees.org/calendar.