Summer is the time to rediscover native plants

Friday, June 22, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 5:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Wayne Bailey, left, and Ben Pottler, right, talk to a group about insect diversity on native plants.

Tim Reinbott, superintendent of Missouri Bradford Research and Extension, wants Missourians to rediscover native plants.

“When we started working with native plants about five years ago, we were looking for something that would satisfy landowners from both a landscaping and wildlife standpoint,” he said. “But for whatever reason, some of the more recent generations have gotten away from them.”

Reinbott and others at the Bradford center held the third annual native plant field day Thursday. Many of the more than 100 Columbia residents who attended the event were already native plant enthusiasts.

“I’ve converted a large portion of my garden to Missouri natives the last couple of years,” said Pam Close. “All my new perennials are Missouri natives, and the only non-native annuals I have are sentimental favorites.”

She said there are many reasons for her conversion.

“They require much less care, you usually don’t have to water, and if you match them to the right environment, they basically take care of themselves,” Close said. “They are very hearty and resist disease and pests because they are used to them.”

Reinbott said native plants invite wildlife.

“They’ll attract anything from quail to songbirds, butterflies and hummingbirds, and they are prolific seed producers,” he said.

Horticulturist Leslie Shaw agreed with Close and Reinbott.

“They are obviously more adapted to the environment than any foreign plant, and once they are established, they don’t require a lot of care,” Shaw said. “They’re easy to fill in big areas with and they have nice ornamental qualities, too. With a diverse selection of natives in your garden, you’ll have beautiful changes constantly through the seasons.”

Shaw said native plants are often misunderstood.

“A lot of people think natives are out of control, but many natives have normal growth habits and are also so beautiful,” Shaw said.

She said the ascalepais tuberosa, which attracts butterflies, is the most beautiful.

And which natives does she recommend to plant in the summer in Columbia?

“Come and see us and we can talk about it,” she said, laughing. “We’ve got a lot of suggestions.”

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