Native Plants and Controlling Invasive Species
"Native plant" is a term to describe plants that are indigenous to a given area. This includes plants that have developed and occur naturally in an area. This tool describes the advantages of using native plants for soil conservation, as riparian buffers, landscaping, screening and other uses. Municipalities should consider requiring the use of native plants in for these purposes, and these requirements should be incorporated into the municipal ordinances.
"Invasive species" describes plants that grow aggressively with few limitations, and can include introduced species that adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically. The tool also addresses the control of invasive plant species to preserve existing communities of native plants. These two actions promote a sustainable natural environment for all Landscape types in a municipality. (Animals can also be characterized as either native or invasive in a given geographic area, but this tool focuses on plants.)
Encouraging the use of native plants and controlling invasive species offer the following benefits:
- Energy Conservation: Encouraging native plants and controlling invasive species conserves energy. Native plants have the optimum root structure for a particular ecosystem, making them more effective in reducing soil erosion, which then results in energy savings associated with stream bank restoration, drinking water turbidity issues and the preservation of arable land.
- Plants Stay Greener: Deciduous native plants remain greener longer in the growing season, which helps reduce the risk of forest fires, which in turn reduces energy costs related to fighting forest fires and post fire remediation.
- Reduced Labor Requirements: The natural regeneration cycle ultimately saves energy. An established community of native plants does not have to be replanted annually or biannually, which is the case for commonly used landscaping materials.
- Supports the Local Ecosystem: Limiting invasive species will help prevent them from "squeezing out" native plants, ordinary landscaping and agricultural crops. Such controls can help encourage the growth of native plants in the local ecosystem.
Encouraging the use of native plants and controlling invasive species can be difficult because:
- Local Expertise may be Necessary: The effective use of landscaping using native plants requires personnel with specialized horticultural skills that may not be as readily available.
- Lack of Common Knowledge: The general public sometimes needs to be educated regarding the advantages of using native plants and removing invasive species.
- Increased Herbicide Use: The aggressive growth of some invasive species requires an equally aggressive response, which could include significant expenditure of energy, herbicides, and other resources.
How to Use This Tool
Requirements for the use of native plant species in new developments and the removal of invasive species should be incorporated into municipal ordinance language. The introductory paragraph to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code empowers all municipalities of Chester County to enact ordinances that, among other things, promote the conservation of energy.
Several municipalities address native and invasive species in their ordinances, including but not limited to:
- Kennett Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance Section 206-517.B.3(d)
- West Nottingham Township Zoning Ordinance Section 1004.D.3(a) and Appendix A.
- North Coventry Township Zoning Ordinance Section 370-29B(7)(a)
- North Coventry Zoning Subdivision and Land Development Ordiannce Appendix F
- Elk Township Zoning Ordinance Section 1301.E(7)
- West Bradford Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance Appendix E
- Warwick Township Zoning Ordinance Appendix D
- CCPC Planning Bulletin #51 Native Plants in the Chester County Landscape
- Schuylkill Township Native Plant List
- What can I do about invasive species?
- Video: Invasive Plants of Pennsylvania
- Species Profiles — Insects and Other Invertebrates
The actions included in this tool are consistent with the goal for Natural Resources as presented in Chapter 5 of Landscapes2. The combination of using native plants and removing invasive plant species provides a variety of methods to conserve energy, and these methods are outlined in the Advantages section.