What are native plants and why are they important?
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, native plants are indigenous or endemic plant species that are a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Accordingly, the word "native" should always be used with a geographic qualifier. For example, plants native to California. Native plants do not include plants species that were brought and introduced to the ecosystem by settlers, no matter how prolific and widespread those plants are now in a particular region.
According to the Theodore Payne Foundation, native plants can reduce water consumption, pesticide use and our carbon footprint. They are low maintenance, once established. They add beauty to your garden and attract wildlife, including native birds, butterflies and bees. Importantly, they support the unique ecosystem of the environment you live in.
What is the Native Plant Project all about?
The Project's mission is to promote awareness of environmental issues, with a focus on native plant conservancy, through art and education.
Education is a key first step for me. This means reaching out to organizations and experts in the field to learn about native plants and important conservation issues in a particular region, starting with San Diego. So far, I have met with two native plant experts and have learned a lot about native plants, both widespread and endangered, in the San Diego and Baja California regions. My goal is to share the knowledge I gain through these experiences with you through artwork and stories I will be posting in my journal throughout the Project.
Finally, there is a "give back" component where I will be looking for opportunities to volunteer and to collaborate with organizations and other creatives.
What do I hope to accomplish?
There is so much power in the ability to recognize and identify someone or something by name. It immediately establishes a connection to that person or thing. Ever since I started learning about plants native to San Diego, the way I perceive my surroundings has completely transformed. Instead of a sea of monotonous shrubs I hardly noticed during my daily walks, I am now seeing individual plant species that each have their unique physical characteristics and contribution to the ecosystem. And the more I am able to identify the plants around me, the more I find myself caring for them.
My hope is that the art and stories I weave together during this Project will help you discover the beauty of the plants native to your home and also, help you establish a lasting connection with the environment around you.
How can I do my part?
There are so many ways we can do our part to protect our environment. Here are just a few ideas to get started:
1. Look into state and regional non-profit organizations for volunteer and educational opportunities.
2. Grow native plants. You can grow native plants in your own backyard. If you don't have a yard, like me, some native plants can be grown in planters.
3. Donate to non-profit organizations and support small businesses that give a portion of their profits to environmental advocacy groups.
4. When you spend time outdoors, be respectful of nature. Stay on the designated trail pathways. Leave it better than you found it.
More to come!