An estimated 30% of wild plants, those growing outside of cultivation, in Central Indiana are not native to Indiana. To a botanist or ecologist, a native plant in Indiana is one that was here when European settlers came. We should value and protect native plants, in part, because they are the best resource to be the base of the food web that supports all of our desirable wildlife, from butterflies to birds to mammals.
The pioneers brought many plants, intentionally and unintentionally, that evolved in Europe but now grow wild here. The last 200+ years has seen the introduction of many more plants from all over the world. Just a few of these species are so successful here that they are now threats to biodiversity in natural areas – they crowd out native plants in woods, wetlands, and prairies. This had led to the moniker of “invasive species.”
This is a good time to appreciate the ubiquitousness of a few invasive species in and around Indianapolis. If a tree or shrub has green leaves still on it in November, it is most likely non-native.
Right now, scattered throughout our remnant woodlands and along fence-rows while you are driving, you can easily see Asian bush honeysuckle, White mulberry and Norway maple. Part of the key to their success here is that they stay green longer than natives and often leaf out earlier, effectively beating the natives to the all-important resource of sunlight.