Native Gardening Guide

WHAT ARE NATIVE PLANTS?

A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. The plants present at the time Europeans arrived in North America are considered native to Arkansas.

ANHC's GUIDE TO NATIVE PLANTS FOR ARKANSAS GARDENS

Our botanists have put together a list of plants native to large portions of Arkansas that should do well on sites with the appropriate amount of sun and moisture. To learn more about using native plants, download our Native Plants for Arkansas Gardens guide.


The Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas

Though published nearly 10 years ago, the Atlas remains the most complete accounting of the county-level distribution of the state's native and non-native vascular plants. Published by the University of Arkansas Herbarium in 2013 as a 709-page softcover book, the Atlas is now available as a searchable PDF file. Click below for a free download of the full-size version (22.3 MB), best for printing or viewing on a desktop or laptop computer or the reduced file-size version (12.4 MB), more suitable for viewing on a smartphone or tablet. 


NATIVE PLANTS ARE A GOOD GARDENING CHOICE

Arkansas’s native plants are uniquely adapted to live with our soils, climate, and wildlife.

What are some benefits of using native plants in your garden?

  • Save Water – Once established, many Arkansas native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall, saving our valuable water resources and money too.
  • Lower Maintenance – Native plants do best with some attention and care, but require less water, fertilizer, pruning, fewer or no pesticides, and less of your time to maintain.
  • Reduce Chemicals – Native plants have developed their own defenses against pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural control take over and keeps chemical out of our creeks and watersheds. Invite Wildlife – Birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects all prefer native plants and many actually depend on them for stages of their life cycle. Help Arkansas pollinators and they will return the favor by setting more fruit in your garden while other wildlife will keep your landscape free of mosquitoes and plant-eating bugs.
  • Support Local Ecology – While creating native gardens will never replace all the lost natural habitats, planting yards, parks, and roadsides with native plants can help provide an important bridge to nearby remaining wild areas. Recommend native plants to homeowner associations, neighbors, and other local land-use planning opportunities.
  • Reduce Invasive Species – Gardening with native plants helps lessen the introduction and spread of invasive species. Many of the invasive species we struggle with today were intentionally introduced as gardening plants. The same characteristics that make a low-maintenance garden plant – hardy, fast-growing, and easy to care for – often allow that plant to grow in natural areas and replace native vegetation. Check the contents of “wildflower” seed mixes carefully; many species in these mixes may not be Arkansas natives.
  • A Sense of Place – Native plant gardens maintain a sense of place. Buying the same commercial nursery plants no matter where you live might be easy, but gardens all over the country end up looking exactly the same. Native plants allow you to appreciate the unique landscape of your area.

The blog post "Some Native Gardening Basics I Learned the Hard Way" by ANHC Chief of Research, Theo Witsell, provides additional guidance on gardening with native plants.

 


Can I Dig Up Native Plants in the Wild?

Digging up native plants causes several problems:

  • It reduces the natural population and consequently reduces the diversity within that population
  • Nature is likely to "fill the vacuum" you create when you dig up plants with different species, often invasive ones
  • Wild-collected plants usually do not perform as well in a garden as those propagated in a nursery or grown from seeds or cuttings.

ANHC Herbarium

A herbarium, like a library, is a collection of preserved plants that are stored, cataloged, and arranged systematically for study. The ANHC maintains one of eight herbaria in the state recognized by the Index Herbariorum (IH), the official database of worldwide herbaria. The herbarium at the ANHC has been recognized by the IH since 2003 and it currently contains more than 15,000 specimens. The oldest specimen in the herbarium, Slender Rose-gentian (Sabatia campanulata), was collected in 1941 by Delzie Demaree.




LEARN MORE ABOUT NATIVE PLANTS AND GARDENING


RESOURCES FOR A SCHOOLYARD GARDEN

Activities and information about how a schoolyard garden can be used across the curriculum and benefit all students.