CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Kanawha Garden Club and the West Virginia Native Plant Society are urging gardeners and property owners across West Virginia to plant native species and have established April as Native Plant Month in West Virginia.
The Native Plant Month proclamation by Governor Jim Justice was set February 20, 2023, according to Luanne McGovern, president of the native plant society.
"We are extremely grateful to Governor Justice for taking the lead and recognizing how important native plants are to keeping West Virginia wild and wonderful,” McGovern said.
Native plants are essential because they have evolved over thousands of years alongside native bees, birds, and wildlife, McGovern said. The intricate relationships between local flora and fauna are highly specialized and cannot be replaced with ornamental, non-native plants.
"Our landscapes today often contain plants collected from around the world, but many of our insects and caterpillars have not evolved quickly enough to be able to eat these strange, exotic foods," she said.
"Therefore, native plants are unique because they provide food for native wildlife. Incorporating so many non-native plants into our landscapes has caused a sharp decline in pollinators and wildlife species because of the destruction of habitat and the lack of food."
To help reverse this trend, many more native plants need to be planted across the country, including a wide variety of native plants with flowers that have different blooming times, flower colors, and flower shapes, she said.
The designation is the result of a coordinated effort by gardeners across the U.S. to increase awareness of the critical role that native plants play in supporting a healthy environment and ensuring thriving wildlife and pollinator populations.
The National Native Plant Month initiative was started in 2021. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are the founding co-sponsors of a bipartisan Senate Resolution to designate April 2021 and April 2022 as National Native Plant Month.
With the retirement of Senator Portman, Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) and Senator Mazie Hirono have agreed to co-sponsor the renewal of the Senate Resolution to make April 2023 National Native Plant Month.
Members of the West Virginia Native Plant Society have been working to protect and preserve the state's native plants for more than 40 years.
Coincidentally, members of the Kanawha Garden Club have been educating its members and the general public in horticulture, gardening, beautification, conservation, and the environment since 1921.
McGovern said that during April, people and organizations are urged to celebrate by planting native trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses, planning educational events with schools and community organizations, hosting hands-on workshops, removing non-native invasive plants so native plants can thrive, and restoring areas with native habitats to allow birds, bees, butterflies and all wildlife to flourish.