What is a native plant?

A native plant is one that was present in the local region prior to European American arrival. Every plant is native somewhere. For example, an Inland Northwest plant is native to the Inland Northwest region. Even more specifically plants native to the Palouse, Camas, and Rathdrum Prairies have been present in these ecosystems for thousands of years and have evolved with the local climate, soil, insects, microorganisms and wildlife. The co-evolution of natives with their environment is why these natives have so many benefits in landscaping.

Benefits to native plantings
Adding fertilizer only feeds the weeds!
Native plants are easy to grow as they are adapted to local conditions. No fertilizer is needed as native plants can obtain all the nutrients needed from the native soil. They also have a higher tolerance to pests and other diseases.

Water Conservation
After the first year, the roots have had a full season to establish so supplemental water is not needed. J.E. Weaver’s 1917 diagrams of Palouse native plants show their deep and extensive root systems. These deep roots allow the native plants to thrive throughout our hot and dry summers by accessing soil moisture many feet down. Water is a precious resource and planting natives in your yard and garden is an excellent way to conserve water.

Weaver, 1917 – eight species common names: H,Western hawkweed. K, Prairie Junegrass. B, Arrowleaf balsamroot. F, Idaho Fescue. G, Sticky purple geranium. P, Sandberg bluegrass. Ho, Palouse goldenweed. Po, Slender cinquefoil

Soil Protection
Native plant root structures provide soil stabilizing benefits and can help reduce erosion from wind and water. Native prairie plant root systems are more extensive compared with many common non-native ornamentals or “exotics”. The roots are one of the reasons that non-natives require more water and nutrients than natives.

Support Wildlife
Native plants are 4 times more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers (Tallamy 2007). Planting flowers and grasses native to the region attracts and supports native pollinators such as butterflies and bees. By planting small patches of native plants within existing and developed landscapes we create corridors or pathways for native pollinators and wildlife linking other larger remnants of native plant communities.

What is not a native plant?

When removed from its native setting and planted in another region, a plant is an “alien” or “exotic” and sometimes becomes “invasive”. Examples of invasive aliens are Bachelor Button Centaurea cyanus from Europe, Multi-flora Rose from Japan, Korea, and eastern China and Scotch Broom Cytisus scoparius from Europe. Most of our landscape plants are “exotic” or “alien”. Some of these are also “Invasive”.

See What is a Weed page.


Tallamy, D. W. 2007. Bringing Nature Home. Timber Press.
Weaver, J. E. 1917. A study of the vegetation of southeastern Washington and adjacent Idaho. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Native plant – present in the local region prior to European American arrival; indigenous

Non-native plant – plants that have been introduced to a place either intentionally or unintentionally; plants outside of their native locale; alien, exotic

"First year they sleep, second year they creep and third year they leap."

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