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Native + Invasive Plants

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    Native + Invasive Plants


    This is a regular topic of conversation in the Parks & Natural Resources division. Native plant nurturing vs. managing the removal of invasive plants. So, what’s the big deal? Native plants are those indigenous to a particular area and invasive plants are not–they were transported here through some means and they establish and proliferate, displacing native plants, and causing harm to the environment, public health, or the economy. Invasive plants often establish with a quick rate of spread that outcompetes native plants for resources such as water, sunlight, and soil nutrients. This rapid spread causes a significant decline in the natural cycle of regeneration of native plant communities that rely on a more methodical approach which benefits the lifecycles of other organisms that share the ecosystem around them, such as decomposer communities of fungi, insects, and invertebrates. We encourage you to visit some of our community partners’ websites to learn more on the topic of native vs. invasive species.

    Native Plants

    According to the Indiana Native Plant Society, “a native plant species is one that has occurred naturally in an area for a very long time. More specifically for Indiana, a native plant species is one that occurred in natural communities—natural plant associations and habitats—within the state boundaries prior to European contact.”

    Native plants play an essential role in the ecosystem and they are what form plant families and communities that turn into habitats.  

    Native Indiana Trees

    PawPaw Flower


    The Indiana banana! This species, although native to eastern and central US, is a tropical looking fruit. It grows in many of our low woodlands, like Central Park East woods! The pawpaw has been used for generations for various purposes. The bark was used for making fabric as well as a medicinal extract, and the fruit was is used for puddings or eating raw. The taste of the pawpaw is tropical, similar to a banana or mango. The pawpaw fruits grow in clusters and are greenish yellow, turning greenish-brown when ripe. Animals also love pawpaw fruit, so it can sometimes be a challenge getting to the fruits before other critters.
    Male Maple Flower


    These trees are common across the Midwest often known for their brilliant red, yellow, and orange colors in the fall. There are several different species of maple found across our state and within our parks. The genus, Acer, is Latin for “sharp,” referring to the sharp-looking pointed tips on maple trees. Sugar maple trees have historically been well-loved for the deliciously sweet sap that flows through them during the winter months that can be made into maple syrup.
    Tulip Poplar

    Tulip Poplar

    Indiana’s state tree! The tulip poplar is a fast-growing tree native to the Eastern hardwood forest and found throughout several of our parks. In the Magnolia Family, the tulip has bright yellow-green flowers with an orange center that makes them extra showy. The tulip poplar is also popular for wood furniture since the wood is lightweight and easy to work. The tulip became Indiana’s state tree in 1931. In 1923, the tulip’s flower became the state flower, however now the state flower is the peony.  

    Benefits of Natives

    Native species offer numerous benefits including food for wildlife, habitat, pollination, biodiversity, sustainability, and clean water. Research shows that native plants support far more species of butterflies and moths than non-native plants. The data below, from University of Delaware researcher Doug Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home), shows the correlation between native woody species and the number of butterflies/moths it supports. Many birds are insectivorous, meaning they primarily feed on insects, and native plant species support the highest number of insects. This means the more native plants available as a host, the higher the insect populations and the more food for birds. In short, more native plants = more insects = more birds.

    Native species have also coevolved with insects over time, forming symbiotic relationships. Non-native plants that are introduced to an area have not been able to coevolve; therefore, they lack a symbiotic relationship. Non-native plants generally have defensive chemicals in their tissue, killing the native plants around them and warding off native insects. Bottom line, native insects thrive with native plants, and vice versa making this a healthy and balanced relationship in the ecosystem.

    It’s important to consider the correlation between native plants and insects when thinking about what you want to plant in your backyard. When considering species to plant, think a) is it a native species to where you live? and b) how many other species of insects and wildlife will benefit from this host plant?


    Why CCPR Plants Native

    Through years of restoring native plant communities, we recognize native plants play an essential role in our ecosystem. We practice what we preach by planting natives every chance we get and offering nature education programs that offer hands-on experience into the value they bring to our surroundings. Whether we are planting a wooded edge, prairie, or wetland community, we choose plants native to that area. We hope you’ll enjoy recognizing the blossoms of some of your favorites the next time you stroll through the park. 

    Certain mature CCPR native plant communities have achieved a status of sustainability, thanks to countless hours keeping out invasives, which allows us to harvest limited amounts of native seed and prepare for utilization in other regional native plant restoration projects across the Midwest with our friends at the Pollinator Partnership. In 2021 CCPR was awarded the Clark Ketchum Conservation Award from the Indiana Park and Recreation Association for the participation and accomplishments through this program with the Pollinator Partnership.

    Native Plant FAQs

    Invasive Plants

    CCPR partners with the Hamilton County Invasive Partnership to combat invasive species and educate our community. In September 2020, a survey was sent out by the Technical Committee to determine what the worst invasive species are in Hamilton County. Knowing this would allow the Hamilton County Invasive Partnership to take the actions necessary to help others in the battle against invasive species. A strike has been formed to take physical action in removing invasives from properties across the county.

    Invasive Survey Results

    Indiana Terrestrial Plant Rule

    Three Common Invasives

    Need to replace some of these in your own yard? Visit hcinvasives.org for information on native alternatives.

    Asian Bush Honeysuckle

    Asian Bush Honeysuckle

    Bradford Pear Information Card

    Bradford Pear

    Winter Creeper Information Card


    How CCPR Handles Invasive Plants

    CCPR is actively managing invasive species in our parks and along our greenways to create healthier parks for our community. We prioritize ridding invasives to make room for native species to thrive. Invasives are not only harmful to the ecosystem but they are harmful to the economy as well.

    CCPR manages invasive targets strategically, based on the season and the most efficient use of available resources. For example, we use different strategies to remove bush honeysuckle depending on the season and the surrounding environment. Sometimes we can uproot it, sometimes we have to cut it and treat the stump.

    CCPR records the expenses that go into invasive species removal. This not only helps manage our own division and parks system, but also aids in the overall quest to educate the community, allow policy makers to realize the impact that invasive species have on the economy, and ultimately create change in our society with legislation or approvals of targeted funding requests.

    Invasive Plant FAQs