Gardening: Native plants offer many benefits including providing food for insects, birds – The Columbus Dispatch

April is Ohio Native Plant Month and National Native Plant Month. April was first designated as Native Plant Month in Ohio in 2020, spearheaded by former Ohio First Lady Hope Taft. And now for the first time, April has also been designated as National Native Plant Month by the United States Senate, thanks to a bipartisan resolution sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
Native plants occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds, insects, wildlife and even humans. Without native plants and the insects that co-evolved with them, native songbirds, in particular, cannot survive. 
Research by University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 different species of caterpillars while the ginkgo, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, supports only 5 different species of caterpillars. The non-native and invasive Bradford pear currently in bloom everywhere in Greater Columbus supports just a single species of caterpillar. (The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has added all varieties of Callery pear — including Bradford pear — to the list of invasive species in the Buckeye State. Starting in 2023, it will be illegal to sell or plant these trees anywhere in the state.)
More than 95% of all terrestrial birds raise their young on insects, not seeds, so healthy bird populations depend on robust insect populations on native plants.
Marsh marigolds:Native Plant: Incredibly hardy marsh marigolds thrive in heavy moisture
Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen and seeds that serve as food for not just birds, but also for native butterflies, insects, bats and other animals.
Native plants are often far more beneficial to native insects because they have had thousands of years to co-evolve and adapt, allowing native insects to tolerate the unique chemical defenses of native plants. 
Today, many landscape plants have been collected from around the world, but many native insects have not evolved quickly enough to be able to eat these strange and exotic foods.
There are more than 1,900 native plants found in Ohio, including trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and grasses. These native plants are important to pollinators, birds, insects and wildlife. 
This year, the Ohio Native Plant Month organization has selected four native plants to highlight to encourage gardeners to plant and preserve these native species. The plants selected for 2022 are bur oak, eastern redbud, northern spicebush and purple coneflower. Gardeners will find each of these native plants for sale at garden centers in Greater Columbus.
Let’s take a look at each of these popular Ohio native plants:
Bur oak is a large deciduous tree that thrives in many soil types, including moist clay, and prefers full to partial sun. Compared to other types of oak, bur oak typically has deeply furrowed bark and large, mossy acorn caps that cover most or all of the acorn. They are versatile trees, but bur oaks are especially well-suited to large open areas, where they can grow up to 90 feet tall.
Bur oak:Native plant: The majestic bur oak helps support wildlife
Eastern redbud is a smaller ornamental tree, reaching approximately 15 feet on average. Redbud trees are covered in clusters of small pink or while flowers each spring, making them a great choice for landscaping or decorative planting. They can adapt to a variety of circumstances, but have the best longevity in moist, well-drained organic soils in areas with some filtered or dappled sun.
Redbud trees:Gardening: Redbud trees, native to Ohio, provide striking early spring color
Northern spicebush is a shrub often found in the understory of deciduous woodlands. The spicebush blooms with yellow flowers in early spring and develops red berry-like fruit in the fall. The fruit and leaves can be utilized for spice or tea or left on the shrub for wildlife to feed on. Many different species of caterpillars and several butterflies and moths are attracted to northern spicebush.
Purple coneflower is a perennial that is often used in flower beds and landscaping. Coneflowers are very popular among caterpillars, butterflies, hummingbirds and native bees. These plants prefer a well-drained rich soil with full or partial sun. In optimal conditions, coneflowers can spread easily with little effort from the gardener. The hollow stems of Coneflowers also provide winter habitat for native bees and other insects when left standing.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources maintains several lists of Ohio native plants categorized by the landscape setting in which they grow. These lists can be found at: