Native Plants: Why They’re So Important

by Dina Haveric, Green Iowa Americorps Member

What are native plants?

Native plants can be defined as those that naturally occur in the region in which they evolved. They are adapted to local climate and soil conditions and, as a result, provide the most sustainable habitats.

What’s so great about native plants?

Native plants play a crucial role in our local ecosystems by supporting pollinators such as birds, bees, and butterflies. Additionally, natives provide necessary food and shelter for wildlife. Unlike native plants, exotic plants do not offer the same energetic rewards for their visitors and disrupt the natural food web. In some cases, non-native plants can become invasive, outcompeting native plants and further degrading natural habitats.

Native plants are advantageous.

  • Native plants require less fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Native plants require less watering.
  • Native plants assist in preventing soil erosion.
  • Native plants help reduce air pollution.
  • Native plants provide food and shelter to local wildlife.
  • Native plants support pollinators.
  • Native plants promote biodiversity.
  • Native plants preserve natural heritage.
  • Native plants help landowners save money.

Interested in adding native plants to your yard? Here are some examples of native Iowa plant species you might consider.


  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Yarrow
  • Coneflower
  • Prairie Onion
  • Ironweed
  • Mountain Mint
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • Wild Ginger
  • Spotted Bee Balm
  • Jacob’s Ladder
Butterfly Milkweed


  • Big Bluestem
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Bluejoint Grass
  • Pennsylvania Sedge
  • Fox Sedge
  • Soft Rush
  • Switchgrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Dark-green Bulrush
  • Wool Grass
  • Prairie Dropseed
Big Bluestem
Wool Grass


  • False Indigo
  • Gray Dogwood
  • Elderberry
  • Fragrant Sumac
  • American Hazelnut
  • Red Honeysuckle
  • Snowberry
  • Winterberry
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Red Raspberry
  • Nannyberry
  • Viburnum
Red Honeysuckle


  • Ohio Buckeye
  • Swamp White Oak
  • Serviceberry
  • River Birch
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Honey Locust
  • Quaking Aspen
  • Sycamore
  • Black Cherry
  • Cottonwood
  • Linden
  • Northern Red Oak
Eastern Redbud

For more information, you can search native species at these links:

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