By Arne Johanson
Why are our local, native plants important? Well for me, it is important that Jackson looks and feels like Jackson. If I wanted to have a suburban yard I’d be living in any suburb USA. But my opinion doesn’t really answer the question. Local native plants are important because of how they fit in with everything else here.
The local plants are adapted to grow in the local soils with only rainfall to keep them happy. Locally native plants support caterpillars. Just like Monarch Butterflies rely on milkweed, each butterfly species relies on a certain set of plants. These are the only plants on which their offspring can feed and the only plants where they will lay their eggs. The caterpillars then feed birds. Something like ninety percent of all terrestrial birds feed their young caterpillars and are reliant on this source of protein to raise their chicks.
Native plants also feed larger critters from chipmunk to bear, be that shoots and tubers early in the year, leaves and flowers during the summer or fruit in the fall our native plants are what the wildlife depends on.
So not only are native plant attractive to look at (personal opinion), but they are easy to grow and help provide for butterflies, birds and all the other creatures that help make this place special. Now that just might be a better answer than simply, I like Jackson and want to keep its uniqueness. Either way, our native plants are an important aspect of the valley that we call home.
EDITORS NOTE: If you’re interested in native plants and making your yard more wildlife-friendly, be sure to check out the great work of the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition and their Trout Friendly Lawns program!