Over the millennia, native plants have evolved along with insects, birds, and animals to form a harmonious ecosystem that is adapted to the local soil, climate, and tempo of the seasons. By using native plants for landscaping at Montwell Commons, the need for pesticides, watering, and fertilizing is minimized. These plants support the insects, birds, and mammals that evolved alongside them. For instance, Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed – they lay their eggs under the leaves, and the larva feed on the milkweed stems and leaves which are their only source of nutrition.
Mountain Mint blooms for a long time in late summer and the flowers have abundant, rich nectar that attracts a large variety of butterflies, bees, and wasps. For instance, large numbers of Blue-winged wasps can be seen gathering nectar from the Mountain mint flowers. These wasps are major predators of Japanese beetle larvae and help control infestations.
When non-native plants are introduced for landscaping, many become invasive because they do not have natural pests or animals that graze on them for food. From the 1930s until the 1960s, agricultural agencies encouraged planting multiflora roses to control erosion and form natural fences. But they are very invasive so we often see that they have taken over abandoned pastures.
Since non-native plants evolved in a different ecosystem, they often require additional water, fertilizer, and pesticides to survive. At Montwell Commons, the landscaping plan was developed by volunteers and includes over 60 varieties of native plants. These provide colorful flowers from early March until late October, as well as food and shelter for a large variety of plants, insects, and animals.
Many of the flowers that are in bloom each month are shown in this slideshow.