Native Plants in Chatham Park
The Southwest Shore Conservation Assessment recommends that primarily native plants should be used in Chatham Park for landscaping and native plants should be undisturbed in buffer areas. Additionally the inevitable intrusion of invasive plants should be aggressively policed. Any non-native plants that are approved for use in Chatham Park should be non-invasive.
Why Plant Natives
Unlike many non-native plants, native plants introduced into landscape plantings are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to escape and become invasive. They help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money on fertilizer and pesticides.
But North American native plants, defined as those that existed here without human introduction, are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activities, such as urban development, agribusiness and the introduction of invasive species. The loss of native plant communities has reduced wildlife habitat and the genetic diversity necessary for balanced ecosystems.
An important characteristic of native grasses and is the extensive root systems, which are capable of securing soils in the presence of moving water. Where turf grass roots only occupy the top 2 inches of the soil, native grasses extend their roots down over 2 feet into black dirt and clay. One problem with turf grass is that repeated cutting causes the roots to grow very dense, thereby inhibiting water from penetrating deeper than an inch or two past the surface. Once the shallow root zone is saturated, the lawn acts much like a paved surface, where the excess water runs over the surface instead of being taken deeper into the soil. This excess “run off” naturally finds its way into the nearest drain/ditch, which commonly ends up in ponds.
When native vegetation is established around the shoreline and up the slopes (buffer zone) of the pond, the velocity of water decreases as it approaches the pond, removing nutrients before the water enters. The deep roots allow water to more easily infiltrate the soil in the buffer zone, and slowly make its way to bodies of water. By reducing the amount of water flowing over the land – except during major rain events – there is less gulley erosion and cooler water in the pond, streams or rivers, which benefits much of the plant and animal life.
The image below shows the grass on the far left as Kentucky Blue Grass, this grass is a “turf grass” used for lawns, as is Fescue grass, which is often used for North Carolina lawns as well. These grasses do not have extensive root systems they are non-native and due to various factors mentioned in the excerpt sited above are detrimental to our watershed. Preston Developers have a history of using lawns and non-native plants in their landscaping.
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