a garden full of black-eyed susan wildflowers

Native and non-native wildflowers — What’s the scoop?

There’s so much to love about wildflowers! They’re bright, cheerful, smell wonderful (most of the time), and turn our yards into a charming, whimsical oasis to escape and relax in. They’re also friendly to beginner gardeners, as wildflowers tend to be low-maintenance, thriving in shady spots or requiring little watering, unlike other flowers you get at the garden store.

Whether you’re an experienced or beginner gardener, you may have found conflicting information online while researching wildflowers. Particularly about which wildflowers are most beneficial and which can potentially harm ecosystems. 

To help you on your journey to learn more on this topic, we rounded up some information and sources about native, non-native and invasive wildflowers:

1. Are all non-native wildflowers invasive?

Non-native wildflowers are species introduced to a new area by humans (intentionally or by accident). Some scientists say that all non-natives are invasive and harmful. Other scientists agree that this idea is outdated, saying that while some non-natives have a negative effect, many others are non-threatening and neutral.

These neutral non-native wildflowers are also referred to as naturalized, meaning they’re growing in harmony with their new environment causing no disruptions to established biodiversity.

Invasive wildflowers cause problems in the local environment. They spread fast, stop native wildflowers from growing, and hurt local wildlife or plant-growing businesses.

(Sources: nrcs.usda.gov, lakes.grace.edu)

2. Can native wildflowers become invasive?

It depends on the location. Native wildflowers growing in their native areas cannot become invasive there. They may grow and spread faster than other native wildflowers in that area, making them an aggressive but not invasive species. However, if that same native plant moves into a new area where it’s not considered local and non-threatening, it can become invasive.

(Source: Kim Eierman, environmental horticulturist via ecobeneficial.com)

3. What are some examples of neutral or naturalized non-native wildflowers?

An example of a neutral, non-native, non-invasive wildflower in North America is black-eyed susans.

An example of a neutral, non-native, non-wildflower plant is peonies, the state flower for Indiana, even though they are not native to the area. Over many years of local people planting peonies, the flower adapted to local wildlife and did not cause harm to the environment or economy.

(Source: lakes.grace.edu, almanac.com, nrcs.usda.gov)

Curious to learn more about non-natives? We put together some information that should help!

Keep in mind that the research on biodiversity and living things is ever-changing. We encourage you to do more research on your own as well.

Some potential benefits of native wildflowers

Note: This applies to native wildflowers growing in areas where they are considered local and non-threatening

1. Encouraging more native species to stay in the area

Since native plants have been growing in their habitats for a long time, they’re familiar with all other life living there too. They naturally attract local pollinators and birds.

(Source: cwf-fcf.org)

2. Saving money and effort

Native plants have adapted to local soil and weather conditions. They grow without the need for extra water and added fertilizers.

(Source: emswcd.org)

3. Staying healthy without pesticides or herbicides

Local diseases, pests, and predators will not be new to the native wildflower. They’ve seen these challenges before and learned how to adapt. That means less need for chemical protection.

(Source: emswcd.org)

catchfly wildflowers

Some potential benefits of neutral non-native wildflowers

Note: This does not include non-native invasive wildflowers

1. Maintaining already-established biodiversity

About half of species in some regions are non-natives. According to scientists, removing them could interrupt what’s working. The thinking is that getting rid of them may also cost money or harm native species more than leaving them be.

(Source: journals.plos.org)

2. Adapting faster to environmental changes

Growing cities, commercial farming, and global warming are shifting how our environments behave. When these changes are unfamiliar to natives, the non-natives may be more prepared and thrive. According to a study from Indiana University, natives did not adjust to a warming climate while non-natives changed their blooming behaviors.

This example in Scientific American article says that 67 percent of Hawaii native plants have gone extinct, which birds need for seeds. People have introduced non-native plants that are replacing those lost natives.

(Source: lakes.grace.edu, e360.yale.edu)

3. Offering a second option for food and shelter

During the beginning and end of spring and summer, some non-native plants aren’t in bloom yet. When bumblebees look for food at these times, they can turn to some non-native species blooming there.

(Source: onlinelibrary.wiley.com)

snapdragon wildflowers

What wildflowers are in Botanical PaperWorks seed paper?

There are 6 wildflower species in the standard wildflower seed paper blend from Botanical PaperWorks that include sweet alyssum, black-eyed susan, clarkia, bird’s eye, catchfly, and snapdragon. All of these wildflower types fall into the non-native and naturalized category. They are not considered invasive in North America.There are 6 wildflower species in the standard wildflower seed paper blend from Botanical PaperWorks that includes sweet alyssum, black-eyed susan, clarkia, bird’s eye, catchfly, and snapdragon. All of these wildflower types fall into the non-native and naturalized category. They are not considered invasive in North America.

If you’d like to learn more about the wildflowers in our seed paper, look at this Seed Types & Blends page. All the Botanical PaperWorks seeds are approved for planting worldwide by the USDA and CFIA.

Wildflower seed paper blend from Botanical PaperWorks with catchfly, sweet alyssum, snapdragon, bird's eye, black-eyed susan and clarkia wildflowers

We hope you found this article interesting and will continue learning as you go. If you feel comfortable planting both native and non-native wildflowers in your garden, know that there are studies out there that support your decision!

Learn more about this special paper made by Botanical PaperWorks that uses post-consumer materials and is embedded with seeds so that it will grow when planted!

You can buy seed paper sheets for eco-friendly papercraft projects from Botanical PaperWorks. We have a variety of seed options, including wildflower, herb and veggie, and over 25 seed paper colors. Join our mailing list to receive emails with freebies, projects, coupons, green living tips, and decor ideas and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest


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