Do you enjoy all the nature on our beloved island? Are you interested in the amazing local plants and flowers? Well, let us tell you why we are lucky to have some native plants on Roosevelt Island.
Pollinators are essential to our ecosystem. Many pollinators, like beautiful butterflies and lovely ladybugs, can only rely on native plants for food and nectar. Because of this, the butterflies and other pollinators may become endangered on our island and possibly extinct in our world if we don’t start planting more natives in as many places as we can, especially in the middle of this enormous city
What is a native plant and why does it matter to our ecosystem?
A native plant is a plant that has been in the area for hundreds of years, evolving to co-exist with the other native plants and animals. This makes them necessary to our ecosystem because the local animals can get more food and nectar from them as opposed to a non-native, or invasive plant.
Now you might be thinking “Well I see butterflies and bees on non-native plants too!”
While that may be true, native plants are much more helpful. According to the Audubon Society, the oak tree, native to North America, shelters and feeds about 500 species of native caterpillars, while the ginko, a tree indigenous to Asia, hosts only five species that live here. Therefore, the native tree, the oak, is one hundred times more useful to the local environment than the non-native, the ginko.
Click images to see some native plants already growing on Roosevelt Island
Milkweed: A side story
A name like "milkweed" may lead you to believe it is invasive or harmful; however, milkweed is not actually a weed!
Did you know that Monarch butterflies require milkweed to keep their species alive? You may not appreciate the milkweed you have seen but there are many varieties, including Common, Rose, Poke, Swamp and Whorled. So if you would like to have Monarch butterflies visit our island, encourage your building to plant some milkweed today!
Why are pollinators so important?
Pollinators are creatures that go from flower to flower, drinking nectar and carrying pollen from plant to plant. This is essential because, in order for the plant to reproduce, bugs and some birds must pollinate plants.
The way this works is the pollinators go to drink the nectar from the flower and pollen from the anthers gets stuck on their bodies. So when they drink nectar from another flower the pollen rubs off on the sticky stamen which brings the pollen down to fertilize the plant. This makes it possible for fruit to develop and for seeds to be produced and planted.
This is why pollinators are essential to our ecosystem because without them the plants would not be able to produce seeds, making that plant go extinct. Also, we would not have all the food we need like corn, tomatoes, squash, apples, peaches, and more and more.
Now, you may be thinking “But I don’t want bugs all around whenever I go outside!” Well, we have three things to say to you:
1. What about butterflies and hummingbirds? Those are pollinators and ones that most people would want to have the chance to see on a daily basis.
2. All the beautiful flowers growing on our island need to be pollinated in order for them to grow again next year.
3. One third of the crops we grow and eat are pollinated by insects. And guess what? If it weren’t for fly pollinators, there would be no cacao beans, which means that there would be no chocolate! And for you coffee lovers, without pollinators your morning cup of joe ☕ wouldn’t be as delicious!
Also, if you’re thinking, “Well, native plants are just too much work for our landscapers,” you are incorrect. Because natives have adapted to the local environment, they have also adapted to how much rain the area gets, and the type of soil and other things like that. In fact the Audubon Society says, “Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water. In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well.”
To join other Roosevelt Islanders in support of pollinators and native plants, you should check out all the sites on Roosevelt Island where we already have native and pollinator plants.
See where you can check out native plants on Roosevelt Island.
This Google map will show you where to see plants that support pollinators such as butterflies and birds. Do you have any family or friends who like butterflies? Well, check out these spots on our island.
In conclusion, we should plant more native plants on Roosevelt Island because they are beautiful, they help the environment, and they attract native pollinators like monarch butterflies and ruby throated hummingbirds. I hope you help support the planting of native and pollinator plants in our urban landscape. It doesn’t take much, even a little patch here and there can make a big difference if everyone pitches in!
Want to learn more? See these other articles:
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
North American Native Plant Society
National Wildlife Federation
Lauren Hynes and Penelope Mascia are members of Girl Scout Troop 3001. As part of their Bronze Award project, they worked with the Roosevelt Island Garden Club to aid pollinator habitats on Roosevelt Island. You can follow their work to native plants on Roosevelt Island on Instagram at @BronzeButterflies.