In 2010, The Dawes Arboretum along with state and federal agencies, private and public organizations, and respected field professionals, formed the Ohio Native Plant Network (ONPN).
Ohio Native Plant Defined
An Ohio native plant is one that was part of the Ohio landscape in the late 1700s, before European settlers arrived, and when nearly 95 percent of Ohio was forested. The rich woodlands with towering trees, some standing 100-150 feet tall, were some of the most impressive of all temperate zone hardwood forests.
The rapid European settlement of Ohio resulted in a steady decline of forest cover and wetlands, as they were cleared and drained to make way for agriculture. The native plant species that the ONPN focuses on are those that survived the vast changes to the ecosystems during times of settlement.
The ONPN establishes guidelines for the collection, propagation and distribution of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials of wild known origin. The overarching goal is to create a vision to enhance native plant biodiversity, conserve local genotypes and restore native plant communities in Ohio.
Enhance native plant biodiversity
To enhance native plant biodiversity, the group considers and addresses the following issues:
- Habitat loss and degradation – This is mostly due to competition from non-native, invasive plant species.
- The threat of climate change on present Ohio native plant species – As species decline and disappear, species more tolerant of a warmer, wetter climate will move north and many Ohio native plant species that coexisted and co-evolved with these ecosystems may disappear.
Conserve local genotypes
To attain the goal of conserving local genotypes, the ONPN encourages planters to buy plant material that originates from Ohio and the local eco-region. When the environmental conditions of the plant material source—the seeds—are matched to that of the planting site, the better it grows. This occurs because species have become genetically adapted to their local conditions. Therefore, buying locally will preserve not only the diversity of Ohio native plant species but also genetic diversity within each species.
Restore native plant communities
Another goal of the ONPN is to restore native plant communities in Ohio by working collaboratively with Ohio nursery and landscape industries to ensure the availability and use of common Ohio native plants of local known genotypes.
To accomplish this, seeds from common Ohio native plants of wild known origins are collected and then dispersed to local nursery and landscape industries for their use and for eventual distribution to anyone responsible for creating backyard landscapes as well as restoring natural ecosystems.
Promoting public awareness in regards to Ohio native plant conservation and the value in choosing Ohio native plants of local genotypes for home landscapes will be a key component to the success of the project as it moves forward.