The state maintains a list of crops that cannot be imported, sold, or grown in Massachusetts, but this has not always been the case.
There was a time when oriental bittersweet and norway maple were planted for its color or shade, or because it grew quickly. Over time, agricultural authorities, garden centers, and many homeowners realized that some alien species could quickly turn a landscape green, but they overgrow and stifle native plants, drive away pollinators and wildlife, and often damage the natural balance that humans began to live in before Stamping around.
The state’s list of banned plants includes many species the average person might recognize – by name, if not by appearance. Kudzu, Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute vine (or Asian teathumb), purple loosestrife, and many others can quickly overrun an area.
Meanwhile, careful planning and promotion of native plant species can benefit a community.
A good example of the benefit of native plants was recently when a West Newbury environmental group – West Newbury Wild and Native, or WN2 – wrote to the superintendent of the Pentucket Regional School District asking the contractor to use native species for the 146.3 Million US dollars to use construction project of middle and high school.
WN2’s steering committee includes a state wildlife biologist, the former director of the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary of Mass Audubon, and the owner of a landscaping company, so their interest in native plants and references are solid.
WN2 was on the right track, and school principal Justin Bartholomew said native plants and varieties were a priority in the planning process. However, with the project already in full swing, it is unlikely that all or even most of the plants are native to the site.
A spokesman for the project’s landscape design firm said he believed the goal had been achieved as 39% of the trees proposed for the site were native. However, WN2’s steering committee said that of the 50 new plants selected for the school campus, only 13 are native.
Credit to the landscaping company doing the work for supporting the use of native plants and plant diversity in such projects.
At this point, however, replacing native plants with non-native or cultivars – cloning plants that often lack the genetic diversity necessary to adapt to climate change – could add to the price of the project. So it might be too late to convince the school management and general contractor that Pentucket should definitely replace native plants.
But WN2’s efforts should serve as a playbook for state officials.
Isn’t it time the state created a recommended list of native plants to be used in public works, similar to the rules and regulations for other aspects of public works?
Using native plants makes sense in many ways.
The US Forest Service recommends the use of natives because they are adapted to the local climate and soil in which they occur naturally. That means they need less fertilizer and pesticides to stay healthy.
Native plants “also provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that nourish native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals. Unlike locals, common horticultural crops do not offer energetic rewards for their visitors and often require insect pest control to survive, ”the Forest Service website states.
Native plants require less water than lawns and help prevent erosion. They also help reduce air pollution by binding or removing carbon from the air.
In his letter to the school principal, WN2 noted that “by planting only native species in our school, the Pentucket communities are showing leadership as environmentalists and showing our children how to make change in their communities.”
Maybe that won’t work this time, but WN2 has drawn up a good roadmap for the future of the state, municipalities and builders.
The use of native plants is a good example for people and good for the environment.