Return of the Natives

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Plants are revolutionary. They help the planet breathe, providing roughly half of the Earth’s oxygen. They regulate climates through shading, water, and soil retention. They provide food and materials for our homes and clothes. They are important sources of medicine; between 25 and 50 percent of medicines in the U.S. today come from plants. Indeed, it just takes a little thought to realize how important plants are for people. Yet we do not always think of their importance to our neighborhood wildlife.

Currently, non-native species occupy the vast majority of space in our yards, gardens, and public landscapes. Look no further than the expansive (and expensive) lawns that cover more than 63,000 square miles in the U.S., a number that would make it the 24th largest state and largest irrigated crop in the country.

What science tells us is that those landscapes are not providing the food and shelter wildlife need to thrive. Over 95 percent of birds feed their young insects, and non-native plants provide just a fraction of the food that natives do. The conclusion is simple; our current landscapes could be doing so much more.

Enter native plant landscaping. This new focus on using plants naturally found in an area has many advantages over using ornamental, non-native plants. Native landscaping provides more and higher quality food for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It also reduces the water, pesticides, and maintenance needed to keep it beautiful.

Christine Ten Eyck, the founder and principal of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc., is a strong proponent of native landscaping. Her Austin firm focuses on using native plants to help save water and wildlife. Their work has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Texas ASLA Honor Award for their work in the San Antonio Botanical Garden and the 2017 ASLA Award of Excellence for the transformative work at UT El Paso.

Ten Eyck will share her revolutionary ideas on native landscaping as the Keynote Speaker at Quinta Mazatlán’s 2019 Planta Nativa night in the park with food, spirits, art, and music. The 5th Annual Planta Nativa takes place at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17, at Quinta Mazatlán in McAllen. Join in the celebration of native plants, their beauty, and their incredible value to us and wildlife.