Native Landscaping 101

Native Landscaping 101
Native Landscaping 101
Green Infrastructure and Native Landscaping?
551,357 total acres
169,723 “Green Infrastructure Vision” (30.8% of total)
42,058 protected (7.6% of total)
Native Landscaping 101
What is Native Landscaping?
• Native landscaping relies on a the plants - trees, shrubs, grasses, sedges,
wildflowers, etc. - that lived in our region for thousands of years and are well–
adapted to local growing conditions
• Native plants are difficult to mass produce and distribute across the country
• Native plants vary regionally and help create a sense of place in the landscape
Native Landscaping 101
The Conventional Approach to Landscaping
• Conventional landscaping relies on a handful of commercial plants sold based
on their function – hedge, groundcover, lawn grass, ornamental grass, etc
• Plants are easy for nurseries and stores to mass produce and distribute widely
• Creates to homogenization and simplification of our landscapes
• Heavy reliance on lawn or turf grass
Native Landscaping 101
Scope of Conventional Landscaping
Map courtesy of Cristina Milesi,
NASA Ames Research Center
• We are a nation obsessed with lawns - 40 million acres of turf grass in the US
• The state of Illinois is 37 million acres
Native Landscaping 101
Benefits of Conventional Landscaping
Why do we love it so much?
• Aesthetic status-quo
• Status symbol
• Static and dependable
• We know how to maintain them
• Most appropriate for certain
functions (soccer or baseball fields)
• All landscaping provides moderate
environmental benefits - carbon
sequestration, urban cooling, etc.
Native Landscaping 101
Costs of the Conventional Landscaping
1. Resource Intensive
• Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
– homeowners apply 67 million lbs/yr
– homeowners apply 3-10x more/acre than
– creates water pollution and human health
• Air pollution emissions
– 1 hr of lawn mowing = 20 mi driven
– 580 million gallons gas/yr used by lawn
– High in particulate emissions
Native Landscaping 101
Costs of the Conventional Landscaping
• Water
– lawn grass is the most irrigated crop in
the US
– over 40% of Chicago’s summertime
water is used for gardens and lawns
• Time Intensive
– Average homeowner spends 40 hr/yr
mowing the lawn
• Costly
– $28.9 billion/yr is spent on lawn care in
the US
– Annual maintenance costs $400$6,5000/acre
Native Landscaping 101
Costs of the Conventional Landscaping
2. Ecological Impact
• Invasive Species
– Many ornamental plants have become invasive species in our region’s
natural areas
Native Landscaping 101
Costs of the Conventional Landscaping
• Simplified Landscapes
– Creates simple, sterile
landscapes that can not
support biodiversity
– Conventional landscaping
favors non-native, “pest-free”
– Without the right plants that
support insects - the food
web is broken
Native Landscaping 101
Challenges of Native Landscaping
Not appropriate for every function
Different than status quo
Unknown and untrusted
Less consumer demand
Native Landscaping 101
The Benefits of Native Landscaping
Native Landscaping 101
The Benefits of Native Landscaping
1. Less Resource Intensive
• No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides
– Plants are well-adapted to local soil
• No Regular Mowing or Watering
– Long roots eliminate the need for
watering during summer droughts
• Less Time Intensive
• Less Costly
– Annual maintenance costs: $3001200/acre
Native Landscaping 101
The Benefits of Native Landscaping
2. Positive Ecological Impact
Improved soil fertility
Carbon sequestration and storage
Increased stormwater infiltration
Native Landscaping 101
The Benefits of Native Landscaping
• Diverse, Living Landscapes
• Native plants support native insects which support birds and other wildlife
• Most insects are specialists and have a specific relationship with a host
• No two plant species have the same leaf chemistry. Insects have
synchronized their life cycle with certain plants and adapted to be able to
overcome physical and chemical defenses of their hosts.
Native Landscaping 101
Garden Food Web
Tertiary Consumers
Secondary Consumers (BIRDS, MAMMALS)
Primary Consumers (INSECTS, HERBIVORES)
PLANTS (Primary Producers)
Native Landscaping 101
The Benefits of Native Landscaping
• Research has shown that native landscapes do
support more biodiversity
• Measured bird and butterfly larvae diversity at
6 pairs of suburban lots (native vs. non-native)
with equal cover and diversity
• Native lots
• 8x more bird species of regional concern
• 4x more butterflies (abundance)
• 3x more butterfly species (diversity)
Burghardt, K.T. et al. 2008. Impact of Native Plants on Bird and Butterfly Biodiversity in Suburban
Landscapes. Conservation Biology, Vol 23. No 1, 219-224.
Native Landscaping 101
Why Is Native Landscaping Important?
Only 3.6% of Illinois is in public ownership for natural
resource protection.
Illinois has lost more than 90% of its original wetlands,
99.99% of its original prairie.
Most of our state has been plowed, drained, ditched,
paved, or turfed.
There are 424 state and 24 federally listed threatened
and endangered species in Illinois.
2007. Illinois Environmental Council Education
Fund. Illinois State Land Conservation Funding
Native Landscaping 101