Submitted by: Douglas Justice, Associate Director, Horticulture & Collections & Christina Prehn, Education Assistant (UBC Botanical Garden)
Did you know that British Columbia is home to 3,510 native plant species? This number includes both the conductive-tissued vascular plants and nonvascular, smaller-in-stature bryophytes, like mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Of these native plants, 25 are endemic to BC, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.
Many of us are familiar with native plants in our region even if we don’t realize it. Towering Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar are icons in our parks and alongside roads, and salal is a plentiful evergreen shrub found around the city . So why should we support native plants in our gardens if they are already growing all around?
A native plant, or “indigenous” plant, is a plant which grows naturally in a particular region (locally, we consider plants are native if they predate European contact). Native plants are important to healthy, resilient ecosystems because they exist without any human intervention and provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as food and shelter, to support other native organisms. However, climate change, invasive species, and land use changes increasingly threaten native plants in their natural ranges. By integrating native plants into our gardens, we can improve an altered landscape by providing additional support for local wildlife, including migrating birds and pollinators including bees and butterflies. As native plants are adapted to local conditions, many are naturally pest and disease free and will perform well without additional inputs such as water and fertilizers. Well-chosen native plants can mean spending less time maintaining your garden and more time enjoying it.
A Garden is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
A garden is more than just the plants that grow in it. A garden is all of the plants, their arrangement, the influence of buildings and other structures, the soil and all of its constituents, and the food sources that attract and nourish other organisms, including the pollinators that visit. Native plants can add variety and texture to your garden to make a beautiful, enjoyable space to benefit to the natural world around us—not to mention our many options for native evergreens, which can keep your garden looking lush year-round.
While it is important to recognize that invasive plants can do serious damage to our native flora, the majority of non-native garden plants are problem free. The Grow Green Pick-A-Plant database can help you choose the best plants for your garden, with over 350 species recommended for Metro Vancouver.
The Right Plants for Your Space
Is your garden sunny? Sunny for half of the day? Shaded all day? Whatever your space, there are native plants to fit your needs. Visit the Grow Green Pick-A-Plant browser to describe your garden conditions, explore 49 different native plants, and determine the perfect plant for your space. Find more inspiration in over 45 garden designs which support native plants. Here are some native plants featured on the Grow Green website:
Ready to get planting? Visit the Shop in the Garden Plant Centre at UBC Botanical Garden or your local nursery to purchase native plants to transform your garden and promote biodiversity in your backyard.
- UBC Botanical Garden Forums, including the Pacific Northwest Native Plants subforum.
- Habitat Acquisition Trust. (n.d.). Gardening with Native Plants. Retrieved from https://www.hat.bc.ca/attachments/HAT_Garden_Brochure_web.pdf
- Native Plant Summary Data for BC in 2019: Species and Ecosystems Explorer