What are "native" plants?
Native plants are plants which were present in the region prior to European colonization. Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years, and therefore offer vital habitat. Many native pollinators, birds, bats, and other species can only survive alongside certain native plants.
Native plants are in peril
Native plant species and the habitats they comprise are in steep decline. Estimates indicate that oak woodlands and savannas have been reduced by 80%, wetlands by 87%, bottomland hardwood forests by 70%, and native prairie by over 98%. Overgrazing, residential and commercial development, mining, and other human activities have adversely impacted many native plant communities through habitat degradation or loss. Natural disasters affect plant habitats, too.
Plants under protection
There are 71 plant species that are protected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) in the State of Oregon on all non-federal public lands as either endangered, threatened, or vulnerable. Many more species are candidates for protection, but some have become so rare that it's difficult to assess their past or current populations.
How can I help native plants?
If you're a landowner, the answer is simple: Plant more native plants! Native plants are becoming more commonly available in commercial nurseries. When shopping for native plants, it's important to avoid cultivars (plants that have been bred for ornamental value) and try to source plants and seeds that have been developed as locally as possible for the maximum wildlife benefit.