What is a native plant?
In the United States, native plants are those that were already in an area at the time of European settlement. While this seems like a long time ago, it is actually quite short in ecological time! When referring to native plants, it is important to state the specific geographic region in which a plant is truly native. A plant that is native to New York can also be considered a Northeast native or a U.S. native. However, a plant that is native to the U.S. may not be native to New York.
Native plants and water quality
There are a couple of key ways in which native plants support the water quality of Lake George:
- Native plants help reduce stormwater runoff. The deep roots of native plants are adapted to the soil and terrain conditions of the Lake George watershed. So they absorb and filter runoff more effectively than the short roots of many turf grasses and other ornamental plants.
- Native plants decrease the potential for harmful substances entering the lake. In addition, because native plants have evolved in environmental conditions like those in the watershed, they are adapted to survive here without extra fertilizers, pesticides and watering.
Other benefits of native plants
- Native plants help protect New York’s biodiversity by providing food and habitat for native birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
- Native plants save residents time and money maintaining landscaping, due to the plants’ adaptation to the environment.
Identifying native plants
While most local nurseries try to provide a good variety of plants native to our local area, plants labeled “native” at your nursery may be from as far away as California. To confirm if a plant is considered native to New York, you can go to the New York Flora Atlas and search by common or scientific name. To identify plants considered more specifically native to the Adirondack Park, see this shortlist or this more comprehensive list compiled by the Adirondack Park Agency.