Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. Many of our wildlife species cannot survive without certain native plants. Incorporating these plants into our gardens ensures our natural systems thrive and continue to supply clean water and resources we use for generations to come.
Exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature do not support wildlife as well as native plants. Occasionally, they can even escape into the wild and become invasive exotics that degrade natural habitat. The insects and pathogens that keep them in check in their native range are lacking or absent when they are introduced to a new area. This gives them an advantage over native plants and allows for domination of a site. A complete monoculture of one species is a detriment to a healthy ecosystem. Diversity allows for a more balanced, productive system.
Native plants help the environment the most when planted in places that match their growing requirements. They will thrive in soils with the moisture content and weather of your region. That means less supplemental watering once they are established and fewer pest problems, lessening the need for fertilizers and chemicals. Native plants supply food and habitat for beneficial insects that naturally control pests so you don’t have to.
Integrating native plants into your garden can decrease erosion and reduce water run-off, increase food and habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, and decrease the need for supplemental fertilization, chemicals, or water.
For more information on gardening with native plants, please see these resources:
Noxious Weeds are invasive, non-native plants that threaten agricultural crops, local ecosystems, or fish and wildlife habitats. “Noxious weeds” include non-native:
shrubs and trees
About half of all invasive, noxious weeds are escapees from gardens; the rest are plants introduced through human travel and trade. Disposing of yard debris properly is crucial to limiting the spread of unwanted plants into natural areas.
As humans introduce plants to new locations for cultivation, or transport them accidentally, some of them become invasive species, damaging native plant communities. Invasive species can have profound effects on ecosystems by changing ecosystem structure, function, species abundance, and community composition. Besides ecological damage, these species can also damage agriculture, infrastructure, and cultural assets.
Recreationalists can accidentally transport weed seeds via the soles of their shoes, on equipment, tires, or dog fur. You can help minimize the spread of invaders by utilizing boot brushes at trailheads and keeping equipment clean. Learn more about how to Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks by visiting PlayCleanGo.org or utilizing boot brushes at certain trailheads in and around the Columbia Gorge.
The Washington State Noxious Weed List includes 155 non-native, invasive species, with 38 Class A species required by the state to be eradicated. All Washington State Noxious Weeds are required to be controlled by the landowner in Skamania County. For more information about Washington's Noxious Weed Laws please see "Noxious Weeds in Washington" on our home page or visit the state's noxious weed board's webpage.
Poisonous plantsare plants that produce toxins that deter herbivores from consuming them. Some plants have physical defenses such as thorns, spines, and prickles, but by far the most common type of protection is chemical.
Many of the known plant defense compounds primarily defend against consumption by insects, though other animals, including humans, that consume such plants may also experience negative effects, ranging from mild discomfort to death.
Toxic and noxious weeds have characteristics that make them very good at taking over pastures and other areas: they are highly aggressive, produce large numbers of seed or propagules, and are able to outcompete native, forage, or crop plants. Prevention, of course, is always the best route to take if possible. Please take a look at this guide to learn how to identify Washington’s most common toxic weeds for livestock and learn steps to keep your animals healthy.
The best way to handle toxic plants, either native or non-native, is to prevent exposure to them using these common-sense tips:
1. Know your plants: know which plants are harmful so you can avoid them and minimize your exposure.
2.Don’t eat unknown plants: Never eat a plant or berry unless you can positively identify it as being safe to consume.
3.Dress Properly: wear long pants, long sleeves, and gloves when around or removing toxic plants to minimize contact with skin.
4.Wash your hands and clothing: when you encounter an unknown plant and possibly harmful plant you should wash you hands and the clothing that came into contact with the plant.
5.Watch out for your pets: pets can carry the oils of poisonous plants on their fur. Be aware when visiting areas that have plants such as poison oak.
6.Don’t burn unknown plants: burning plant debris may get rid of it, but the smoke may contain toxic compounds. Inhaling the fumes from poisonous plants may be hazardous.