April is Native Plant Month

A native plant is one that has evolved through thousands of years in a specific geographic region alongside local flora and fauna without direct or indirect human intervention. Native plants include a large canopy of trees, understory trees, shrubs, perennials, vines, or grasses. 

Governor Justice has designated April 2023 as West Virginia Native Plant Month. This is an important step in recognizing and hopefully preserving native plants throughout our state. 

What began as a conversation became a national movement, with 42 of 50 states proclaiming April as Native Plant Month. In West Virginia, this Garden Club of America initiative and ultimate recognition resulted from collaborating with the Kanawha Garden Club and The West Virginia Native Plant Society.

Native plants are more than a pretty face. They have root systems that are often deep and woven together underground, and with this underground network they slow soil erosion. Because they have existed and evolved over many years with competing species, prey, predators, and disease, they live in balance with other organisms. 

A few native plants familiar to most gardeners include A. Syriace – common milkweed; Monarda didyma – bee balm; Lobelia cardinalis – cardinal flower; Eutrochium fistulosum – Joe Pye Weed; and the shrub Hamamelis virginiana – Witch Hazel, for a list of other common West Virginia native plants visit the West Virginia Native Plant Society’s website https://www.wvnps.org/.   

Do your research before planting. The right plant in the right spot will always be a happy plant. Make sure you are giving plants the space, sun, and water they need to thrive. 

Invasive species can threaten natives and ornaments in a growing season. This is another reason to do our homework. An invasive plant will take moisture and nutrients from the soil, not to mention the gardener’s time spent to eradicate from the area. 

Plot your garden to have native plants (really all plants) have different bloom times, varying heights, colors, and shapes. This keeps things interesting and extends the support for wildlife for a much longer time. 

No garden? No problem. The Kanawha Garden Club and the West Virginian Native Plant Society encourage visits to State Parks, New River Gorge National Park and Reserve, and West Virginia forests to discover native plants and their habits.

“As spring ensues, West Virginians can take this time to identify and learn about the many native plant species throughout the state and be conscientious about the contributions they make to our environment,” states Susan Chilton Shumate, President of Kanawha Garden Club.

Statewide, many lectures, nature walks, workshops, and other events address native plants and invasive species. Reach out to local Visitors Bureaus and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources for events in your area.

In Kanawha County, look for an April 20, 4 pm Native Plant Talk at Capitol Market and an April 22, 9 am Native Plant Hike at Kanawha State Forest. 

Here’s a little background on the groups that made Native Plant Month a reality:

  • The West Virginia Native Plant Society has been working to protect and preserve WV’s native plants for over 40 years. It is a nonprofit organization open to people learning about West Virginia’s native plants and their habitats.
  • The Kanawha Garden Club was founded in 1921, to promote horticulture, beautification, and plant appreciation. In its 100 years, it has grown into a nationally recognized garden club that plays a role in horticulture, conservation, creative arts, and historic preservation. 
  • The Garden Club of America (GCA) is a nonpartisan, issue-oriented advocate for a beautiful, healthy planet. As a nonprofit national organization, the mission is to bring its member together to cultivate a bond among people, plans, and the environment. With a 199 member clubs, Kanawha Garden Club is the only GCA member in West Virginia.

Many thanks to all who made the Governor’s Proclamation of Native Plant Month happen. Continuing to learn about native plants will encourage their care and growth for the next thousand years.