CoastLine: Native plants in urban and suburban landscapes stimulate the ecosystem and support human life

Thanks to the great suburban expansion in the United States, more than 40 million acres of land in this country are grassed. According to a Princeton University Analysis, lawns can function as “carbon sinks” by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But the high carbon cost of maintaining lawns with gas-powered mowers, leaf blowers and synthetic fertilizers negates any potential benefit. Doug Talmya well-known entomologist and conservationist writes, “Every weekend we mow an area the size of New England to less than an inch, then congratulate ourselves on a job well done.”

But what is the work that we do? Do you understand the effect of those non-native ornamental plants you or your landscaper have planted in the ground? According to several studies, they contribute to the loss of biodiversity.

Caring about the robustness of pollinators, caring about the local population of butterflies isn’t a popular abstraction just among grizzled, Birkenstock-wearing, muesli-eating, Subaru Outback-driving NPR listeners. Supporting biodiversity by installing native trees, shrubs and other plants means that you are directly supporting the systems on which human life depends. Yes, human life.

In this edition of CoastLine, we explore native plants – what they are in southeastern North Carolina, the impact they have on climate change and biodiversity, and how to put more of them into your environment.


Lloyd SingletonDirector, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, New Hanover County Center at the Arboretum

Amy MeadRegional Natural Resources Officer with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, covering Brunswick, Pender, and New Hanover counties

The 2022 Native Plant Festival will be held September 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the New Hanover County Arboretum.

(Don’t let the 2021 URL confuse you! This is the 2022 Festival information.)

The onsite festival at the Arboretum will feature hands-on activities from educational exhibitors such as Wilmington’s Heal our Waterways, NHC Soil and Water Conservation District, Native Plant Society-SE Chapter, Cape Fear Museum, Airlie Gardens, Alliance for Cape Fear Trees, Coastal Composting Council, NHC Beekeepers, NC Forest Service, NC Coastal Federation, Cape Fear’s Going Green, NHC Vector Control, Friends of the NHC Arboretum, Yaupon Tea Company, NCWF Island Wildlife Chapter, New Hanover and Brunswick Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, and the others.

There will also be native plant experts in our education center.

The speaker schedule is as follows:

11:00 a.m.-Title: Nature at Home, Matt Collogan, Consumer Horticulture Officer, NC Cooperative Extension


1:00- Keynote speakerTitle: Coastal Landscaping Design, Madalyn Baldwin, Assistant Research Professor, NC State University, Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

2:00-Title: The Importance of Natives to Birds, Charley Winterbauer, NC Native Plant Society, SE Chapter

Where to Buy – Plants will not be for sale at the Arboretum Native plants will also be available for sale at various vendors throughout the Cape Fear area. **Some sites host multiple providers:

Blooms+Branches, 5523 Oleander Drive

Carolina Girl Nursery, 7026 Market Street

The Garden Shop by Wild Magnolia Designs, 1942 Moss Street

Tinga Nursery, 2918 Castle Hayne Road

Shelton Herb Farm, 340 Goodman Rd NE, Leland

**Yemma Farms, Over the Heather, Flytrap Jones, Wild Meadow Farm, Grizz’s Nursery

Wild Birds and Garden, 3501 Oleander Drive

**Sorrel’s Lawn Care and Nursery, Going Native Nursery

Volunteer master gardeners will be on hand at the Arboretum Plant Clinic and Shelton Herb Farm to answer gardening questions. Guides will be available in the Arboretum’s Native Plant Garden to talk with visitors about how they can add well-adapted native plants to their own gardens to help support insects and wildlife. There will also be a Seed Swap booth where you can receive free seeds!

Additional Resources:

Doug Tallamy’s Webinar: Nature’s Best Hope, Wednesday, September 7, 7-9 p.m.

Charley Winterbauer: Native Plants for Birds and Butterflies, August 23, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Landscaping Design Ideas: These landscaping designs, from the Coastal Landscapes Initiative, are for anyone interested in growing native North Carolina plants in their gardens and yards. Each design can be modified to meet batch configurations, and alternate factory choices are offered for flexibility.

Doug Tallamy, Homegrown National Park:

Native Plant Researcher:

North Carolina State Cooperative Extension Service


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