Nothing works better than native plants when it comes to creating a healthy landscape. They’ll bloom and set seed in sync with the seasons and produce food when wildlife need it. They’re hardy here, but won’t get out of hand. The Grow Native! message is spreading as more people see that it works.
To put it into practice, though, you need to be able to get the seed to grow the plants. Just about a year ago, the Missouri Native Seed Association formed to help make that possible. Last week, I attended a meeting they held in Columbia, Mo.
One big challenge is helping people understand what makes seed truly native: that is, that the seed is actually from plants that were native for generations to the state. For instance, you might plant Indian grass seed, but if it was raised from plants that had only been in Missouri one growing season, then it would genetically still be adapted to other places. It might be the same name seed, but different timing of blooming and setting of seed could mean the difference between plants that last in the landscape and also benefit wildlife, versus those never really thrive here.
To help you know if it’s a truly local native seed you’re buying, there is a Missouri Department of Agriculture “Yellow Tag” program that identifies on a yellow tag seed that is from a truly local, native Missouri source. If you’re a landowner in need of lots of seed, as you shop around you may find that some is cheaper than others—even though they have the same name. The saying “you get what you pay for” has real meaning when it come to native grass and flower seeds. That yellow tag can tell you you’re getting local source native seed. And that has real value in the long run.