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February Article

How Plant Diversity Helps your Ecosystem

Look outside today, and on the surface, you'll see a pretty  barren  white and brown landscape.  Not a lot of color. But the careful inspection of native landscapes, even in the winter, will reveal a multitude of plant species with a wide variety of stem and leaf growth forms (even if they are a bit brown now). Plant biodiversity in a shoreline or prairie ecosystem is important for many reasons. Aesthetically, a variety of different shapes, colors, and sizes of flowers and grasses are much more appealing. In addition, there are many ecological benefits to increased plant diversity.  Here are just a few:


Plant diversity helps pollinators.
Increased biodiversity helps wildlife. There is a reason turf grass lawns are called ecological deserts in our business; the monoculture of turf grass does not contain an abundance of resources to support multiple animal species.  Some mammals, birds, and insects have evolved to be specialists, meaning they only eat certain food.  Bees that only visit specific species, are called oligolectic bees (Holm, 2014).  For example, some bee species only collect nectar and pollen from aster or goldenrod species. Some bee species might prefer to collect food from flowers with a tubular shape because they are small enough to reach the nectar at the bottom of the flower.  Many insects nest in a variety of vegetation types; leaves, hollow stems, and grasses.  Planting a variety of different plant species in your restoration ensures that the variety of important pollinator species and other wildlife get the habitat they need to survive.

Nitrogen Fixing Wild Lupine

A diversity of native

 plants also help amend the soil. Planting certain species that are nitrogen fixers benefit the ecosystem by taking this important nutrient out of the air and putting it into the soil for other plants to use.  Wild Lupine, a legume, is an example of a prairie plant that changes nitrogen in the air to a type of soil nitrogen plants use to grow.  Carbon is also added to the soil by plant growth and decomposition. Our deep rooted native plants are generally more efficient than short rooted non-native species at storing carbon.


Wet tolerant plants surviving a flood disturbance.

Plant diversity also helps a restoration recover after disturbance. Remember all the spring rains we received last year? Flooding is a type of disturbance that can damage a restoration. Disease can be another disturbance that might only affect certain plant species.  When events like these occur, some of plants might die but the others that can tolerate the disturbance will survive.  The bottom line is that plant diversity adds stability.  If a site is just a monoculture of one plant species, the site would most likely be dramatically affected and would take much longer to recover.  Climate change may bring an increase in the frequency of disturbances, like drought, floods, and disease.  Some argue that increased plant diversity will mitigate against these extreme effects.


At Natural Shore we grow over a hundred Minnesota native plant species, all pesticide free! February is the time to start planning for the spring and changes to your restoration. By adding diversity to your site you will not only increase the beautiful landscape you get to look at everyday but you will be increasing the health of your restoration as well! Pollinators and other wildlife will also reap the benefits. It's a win-win! Contact us today to see what new plants will fit into your restoration environment. 


Native Plant of the Month
Blue Eyed Grass
Sisyrinchium campestre

Moisture: Dry
Exposure: Full Sun or Partial Shade
Bloom: May-July
Color: Blue
Height: 4-16 inches

Blue Eyed Grass is a dainty, short perennial with flattened, grass-like leaves growing from fibrous roots.  This attractive plant is not really a grass but a member of the Iris family.  It grows in clumps with tight tufts of basal leaves. The small pale blue flowers consist of 3 petal-like sepals and 3 petals with pointed tips and a yellow center.  Flowers bloom more readily on sunny days.  This little plant self seeds and can be drought tolerant. It is often found in meadows, prairies, open woods, and sandy areas.  Flowers are a popular food source for native pollinators.  Seeds are found in a small round capsule and are often eaten by wild turkey and Greater Prairie Chicken.  The roots and plant parts used for medicine by Native Americans.
Invasive Plant of the Month

Absinth Wormwood   

Copyright 2009 Katy Chayka

Artemisia absinthium


Exposure: Sun

Moisture: Dry

Height: 2-4 Feet

Blooms: July- September 


A light green, almost silvery plant with deeply lobed leaves that are also very fragrant. This is a perennial plant from Europe that looks a lot like Prairie Sage. It is a bushy plant with multiple stems coming from the its base. The stems and leaves are hairy, which give it that silvery look. Wormwood can form dense patches that crowd out native species and reduce the biodiversity of a site. Management strategies include spraying it with a select herbicide, mowing, or hand pulling. These strategies should be employed over a few years to reduce the population and encourage native plant reestablishment. 

Pollinator of the Month

Small Carpenter Bee

Photo by Heather Holm

Ceratina spp.


Range: worldwide 

Habitat: fields, gardens, open areas

Identification: Very small bees (3-15 mm) that nest in the pithy stems of plants or decaying wood. They are shiny bees that sometimes have white markings on their face. They are a bee that doesn't have very  much hair and are some of the first bees to emerge in the spring!

Pollination: Wild Geranium, Milkweed, Harebell, Wild Lupine, Penstemon, Black Eyed Susan, Spiderwort, Golden Alexander, Canada Anemone, New England Aster, Blue Lobelia, and many more!

Want to learn more about pollinators and native plants? Check out an amazing book by local author Heather Holm called Pollinators of Native Plants.

February 2015 Issue
Our Company
Retail Nursery News
Our Retail Nursery will be reopening May 21st! This year's sale dates are posted on our website!

Click and visit our website for current
Minnnesota Native Plant Brand ensures that plant species are native to Minnesota. 
Upcoming Events

Join us again for the Wild Ones Annual Design With Nature Conference Saturday February 21st at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 40 Power Street, Minneapolis.

The 12th annual Spring Days Gardening Workshop and Expo is being held again Saturday March 7th at the St. Michael- Albertville Middle School West. Come join us!

Join us again for the 5th Annual Shorewood Spring Garden Fair! March 14th 8:30am-3pm 5735 Country Club Rd. Our own installation manager Joe Ackerman will be presenting about Native Plants!

The annual Minnesota Native Plant Society Symposium is March 21st! Come visit our booth to learn more about native plants!

We will also be at the  2015 Annual Horticulture Education Day Sat. March 28th 8am-3pm at the Crow River Golf Club at 915 Colorado St. NW, Hutchinson MN. Come visit!