Native plant species require little maintenance to be healthy and flourish, saving property owners time and money while protecting the lake.
The Lake George region flourishes with wild columbine, foamflower, the deep hues of aster, and the red osier dogwood with its distinct red stems in winter. These colorful plants along with other native species of trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns and perennials add to any garden landscape.
Having fully adapted to the local environment, native plants are easy to maintain. They provide food and habitat for wildlife, such as butterflies and birds. They also help prevent invasive species from becoming established and disrupting the region’s natural balance. Most important, native plants do not require watering, fertilizers or pesticides to flourish.
Unfortunately, property owners continue to replace native plants with non-native species at significant cost to the local environment. Non-native flowers and plants usually require intensive gardening management to keep them alive. Mostly, such management includes the heavy use of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and substantial watering. This excessive property maintenance, which is expensive and time consuming, degrades the water quality of Lake George and places a serious strain on the overall environment.
The Benefits of Native Plant Species
The benefits of landscaping with native plants are considerable. Hundreds of these plants have evolved throughout the Lake George watershed over the past centuries. Native plants have adapted to the local climate and ecological conditions around Lake George. They are more drought resistant than non-native species and are acclimated to local seasonal patterns, especially to the freezing and thawing cycles of our Adirondack winters.
- Once established, native plants do not require watering, fertilizers or pesticides to flourish.
- Native plants help prevent invasive species from becoming established and disrupting the region’s natural balance.
- Having fully adapted to the local environment, native plants are easy to maintain.
- The wide variety of native flowers, shrubs, ferns, grasses and trees enhance any garden landscape.
Native plant species attract beneficial insects, such as lady beetles that feed on aphids and other pests, reducing the need for pesticides. Additionally, because native plants flourish in the local environment they develop more substantial roots. They improve water quality by filtering contaminated runoff and reduce erosion by stabilizing soil with their root systems.
When using native plants for gardens and overall land management practices, property owners will not only have a beautiful landscape, but they also will be doing their part to protect the rich natural resources of the lake and its surrounding watershed. For a complete of native species, refer to Native Plant Species Index.
The Hazards of Invasive Plant Species
Many of the most common invasive plant species around Lake George were intentionally introduced as beautiful additions to gardens (Purple loosestrife), or to control erosion on stream banks (Japanese knotweed). Other invasive species were un- intentionally introduced by discarding unwanted aquarium plants (Eurasian watermilfoil) or when contaminated soil or water in ship ballasts was emptied.
The problem with invasive species is that there are generally no natural controls to limit their growth and spread, specifically no animals and insects that consume or utilize the plant for food and habitat or shelter. With this competitive advantage, most invasive plants are able to crowd out all other plant species, spreading rapidly with underground rhizomes and tubers, producing an abundance of seeds that are easily dispersed, or simply reproducing from plant fragments.
When invasive plants take over an area, they degrade the natural ecosystem by outcompeting all other plants for limited natural resources. Invasive species that create a monoculture disrupt the balance between plants, animals and microorganisms. They reduce food and shelter for wildlife and eliminate host plants for insect pollinators. In extreme cases, invasive plants dramatically change the biodiversity of a meadow or wetland into an area composed solely of an individual invasive plant species, replacing all other life.