Native plant initiative transforms 50% of Arlington lawns, increasing biodiversity and oxygen production.
Walking through residential neighborhoods in Arlington during the years preceding 2043, a passerby would’ve had a very different experience than one you might have today. Symmetrical patterns dominated most blocks, while others contained slight variations in plant color and flora. Every so often a wild lawn’s unregulated colors and textures would boldly defy the standard but the dominant trait was a green carpet of manicured grass, neatly trimmed sprouts near perfectly proportionate. This was not unusual for the time. Human made structures subjugated the area, and with these buildings came human monitored landscapes. Before 2040 these were almost entirely formed with ornamental plants, and foreign foliage. This landscaping isolated natural areas, and required high maintenance including the use of various fertilizers, and pesticides as well as regular watering.
Planting native foliage is necessary to support animals who depend on these plants for food and other resources. Butterflies such as monarchs and swallowtails rely on specific native species for survival. Habitats and shelter for birds and mammals come with native trees and underbrush. Native plants provide nectar to pollinators and nuts, seeds and fruit for other wildlife. Studies show that the chickadee, Massachusetts’ state bird, needs lawns composed of at least 70% native species to generate enough food to raise their young. Landscaping without these native plants is functionally a “food desert” for insects and the animals -- like chickadees-- that rely on them for survival. Additionally, Native plants require less water, are low maintenance and are effective at storing greenhouse gases to combat climate change.
The alternative yards with exotic plants encouraged invasive pests and didn’t serve a purpose in the food web. By the early 2040s it was clear a change was needed, but what was the solution? A transformation was needed to support functioning ecosystems in the area. More of a reclamation really, because lawn owners were ready to bring back indigenous plants, and with them would come indigenous wildlife.
A native plant initiative early in the year 2043 proved effective in increasing biodiversity and with it, a variety of benefits. The program encouraged town residents to remodel their lawns in a productive way to support local ecosystems. This initiative relies on people in the community to take individual action, but it was established with the backing of collective action from activist groups. The Mystic/Charles Pollinator Pathways with the support of Sustainable Arlington and students from the APS after school Green Teams were able to launch the program.
Take Action Now
When many yards contain native plants they form a connected intricacy of environment that allows ecosystems to thrive. The collective decisions of a whole community have the potential to bring back terrain for species struggling with habitat loss. Start by replacing imported ornamental species with native plants, grasses and trees and you will start to see more butterflies and birds in your yard! Don’t know what to plant? Check out the National Audubon Society’s database for your zip code here.