A Nine Natives Update to Celebrate National Pollinator Week

Download the Nine Natives booklet here!

Click photo of this Nine Natives booklet cover to download a copy

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HNPAT celebrates National Pollinator Week, June 18-24, with this update on the Nine Natives program, first introduced  in 2013. Although this program languished in the intervening years, recent concerns about the steeply declining population of pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds, bats and more) generated renewed effort last year and led to the debut of the Nine Natives booklet this spring. Click here to get the larger size file, suitable for printing.

This booklet resulted from a collaboration of the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT), especially its Houston Chapter (HNPAT), Coastal Prairie Partnership (CPP), Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC), and Clark Condon Landscape Architecture. Jaime Gonzalez of CPP and Beth Clark of Clark Condon, recently at the Gulf Coast Green Symposium, gave a presentation of the concept. A copy of their presentation is available here.

In recent years, the mantra for gardeners has been, “Plant natives for pollinators and local wildlife because our local native plants have been supporting and co-existing with our pollinators and wildlife for thousands of years.” Local conservationists postulated that, if a multitude of gardens plant at least nine local natives, that would significantly benefit our local pollinators and other wildlife.

However, for gardeners totally new to native plants, how would they start? What plants are local natives? What local native plants are commercially available, either in the form of seed or starter plants? What are the growing conditions these natives require? What combination of native plants would look good together?

These are exactly the questions that the Nine Natives booklet try to address. The booklet recommends nine plants native to the greater Houston region plus four alternatives.  The plants were chosen for their commercial availability, their benefits to local pollinators and wildlife, their aesthetic appeal, and their ease of growth.

The nine native plants can be tucked into established gardens or planted together in a special Nine Natives garden. Clark Condon Landscape Architect provided two designs using these nine natives for the home garden and two designs using them in 16 feet street medians and in 50 feet street medians. In the brochure is also pictorially depicted a prairie planting project by Clark Condon.

A sample page from the Nine Natives booklet

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The criteria, used in recommending the plants are:

  • Native to the geographic area. For us, it was Greater Houston (Harris and surrounding counties). Local native plants are those listed as such in county maps of either USDA Plant Database or BONAP
  • Not a cultivar (Cultivars can be used in the garden, but would not count as one of the Nine Natives.)
  • Commercially available – either the seed or potted plants
  • Be highly beneficial to local wildlife
  • Adapted to average local soil, moisture, sun
  • Have a high chance of persistence
  • Will be compatible in urban or suburban settings

Although the Nine Natives booklet’s recommendations are for the greater Houston area, the concept can be used anywhere. Said Jaime Gonzalez, one of the two who initially conceived Nine Natives, ‘From the beginning the Nine Natives partners all expressed an interest in making Nine Natives an “open source” concept, meaning that other groups and the general public could use the concept as a starting point to innovate around the use of native plantings here in Houston and beyond… So, in my opinion, just like open source software, no one and everyone owns Nine Natives.’

We hope, when others use the Nine Natives concept, they will stay true to the basic premise of recommending only non-cultivar versions of local native plants, for these plants provide the most benefit to local pollinators and wildlife.

 


Other Nine Natives resources: www.katyprairie.org/nine-natives/

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