My name is Victoria Amaral and I am a sophomore majoring in Environmental Science at North Carolina State University.
From the minute I stepped on campus as a freshman I was connected to a plethora of opportunities through the Environmental Science program at NC State. In the second semester of my freshman year I had the privilege of aiding a professor on campus after he reached out to the environmental science department in search of volunteers. His task was to transplant a great amount of Rhus michauxii from his personal garden to a botanical garden nearby.
Rhus michauxii, also known as Michaux’s Sumac, is a plant native to North Carolina that has become endangered due to loss of habitat. Although it has been struggling in the wild, the plant rooted in multitudes throughout the professors home garden. After transplanting over 300 plants I was in awe of how successful the species was when it was given the land to grow.
It was then that I realized that gardening with native plants is a win-win for people and the environment. For us, native plants are easy to maintain- with the added bonus that they rival non-natives in beauty and ability to attract sought after wildlife. For the plants, incorporating them in our landscapes keeps their genetics alive, so they won’t face the possibility of extinction -like Michaux’s Sumac- as urban sprawl increases.
I decided to share the insight I gained from that experience with my home community while on summer break, and that’s how the North Carolina Native Plant Garden was born.
I planted the Native Plant Garden on Queen’s Grant High School’s campus to provide a learning opportunity for the students who attend. It serves simultaneously as a means of spreading awareness in the local community on the ecological support that native plants provide for an area.
Gardening with native plants is ecologically important because it provides a habitat for native species. The insects and animals that are indigenous to North Carolina co-evolved with these plants, and therefore respond better to their presence than non-natives.
Also, land development causes the displacement of wildlife. Using native plants on our properties mitigates the loss of ecosystems and bridges the gap between natural and man-made. This in turn provides a home for the species one would want to attract; like honeybees, butterflies, and songbirds.
Native gardens also require less maintenance because they are suited for our North Carolina weather and soil quality. Because they require less water, they are a more sustainable alternative to typical ornamental gardens.
I am hoping that people will be inspired by the beautiful plants that are native to our state, and potentially incorporate them into their own gardens in the place of other popular non-native species.