News and Blog Articles
News and Blog Articles
One of the things we talk about a lot here at Classic City Arborists is the importance of native species. By keeping up the native populations, you can help reduce the impact of invasive species and generally improve the health of your local ecosystem.
What is a native species?
The U.S. Forest Service defines native species as “naturally occurring, either presently or historically, in any ecosystem of the United States.” These plants were already here when humans got here, and have been thriving in their respective climates and conditions for a long time.
Native plants are vital to their respective ecosystems, and have evolved to work together. When left to their own devices, an all-native ecosystem is essentially self-sufficient, and will flourish with little to no maintenance required.
Of course, with the prevalence of invasive species, landscaping, development, construction, and general human interference, it’s getting harder and harder to find an all-native ecosystem – at least in urban areas. That’s why there’s been a push to plant more native species and maintain greenscapes in urban settings such as neighborhoods, city streets, and parking lots.
Why are native species important?
Native species are the lifeblood of any ecosystem. Without them, the delicate, complex web of give-and-take among the plants, animals, insects, fungi, and bacteria may start to fail.
Think of your local ecosystem as an old-fashioned watch with cogs and gears. If you take away one of the gears, or if the teeth of that gear get too worn down, the whole watch will start to slow and eventually stop working altogether. Native species are the essential gears and cogs that keep your ecosystem healthy.
Native flora also supports your local pollinator population. We’ve talked before about how important it is to save the bees, and maintaining native flora is one of the easiest ways to do that! Since these plants were basically designed to grow here, they don’t need much help from you, making them a low-maintenance option.
What species are native to Georgia?
Our great peach state hosts around 250 different species of tree, and also protects 58 different plant species. Here are some of the most common native trees you’ve probably seen around town:
You could probably guess this first one! Pine trees are one of the most common species in Georgia, with plenty of variations to choose from. For example: Loblolly Pine, Longleaf Pine, Slash Pine, Spruce Pine, White Pine… you get the idea!
Oak trees are also incredibly common around here, with a range of different species. The most recognizable is probably the Live Oak – those widespread, ancient trees characteristic of antebellum Georgia and still decorate our coastlines. Other oak species include Laurel Oaks, Northern Red Oaks, Post Oaks, Scarlet Oaks, Shumard Oaks, Southern Red Oaks, Chestnut Oaks, Water Oaks, Willow Oaks, White Oaks, and more.
Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum
Sugar Maples are definitely a familiar sight in the Classic City, characterized by their bright yellow fall displays. Other native maple species include the Red Maple and the Florida Maple.
Eastern Red Cedar - Juniperus virginiana
This aromatic evergreen tree features a conical-shaped crown with grayish to reddish bark that exfoliates in long strips. They reach heights of around 40 to 50 feet, and are one of the hardier species in our area.
Southern Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora
The flowering magnolia tree is another staple in Georgia, and definitely a familiar site around Athens. These oval-shaped trees feature dark green, shiny leaves and large white flowers that smell amazing.
Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
Sweetgum trees are best known for the spiky ‘gumball’ seed pods they drop every spring and summer. They also produce some vibrant yellow, orange, and purple fall colors.
But trees aren’t the only thing native to Georgia! There are also plenty of shrubs, vines, and flowers to look out for:
American Wisteria - Wisteria frutescens
Wisteria is a vine known for its gorgeous purple flowers. It only shows up for a short time every spring, but it’s certainly a sight to behold!
Trumpet Honeysuckle - Lonicera sempervirens
This native species is known for its delicate scent and delicious taste – remember when you were a kid, and you’d pick off the dark yellow honeysuckle flowers for that one little drop of sweet nectar?
Hydrangeas - Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea arborescens, and Hydrangea quercifolia
Whether you prefer the periwinkle blue blossoms or the rarer light pink variety, hydrangeas are a flowering bush that most homeowners love to have in their yards! These low-maintenance, easy-to-grow bushes definitely up the curb appeal.
There are way too many native species for us to list them all here. If you want to learn more about these native species, or find more, check out the Georgia Native Plant Society!
Emily Casuccio is sister and sister-in-law to Rebekah and Scott Rushing, and has over half a decade of experience in copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, and developmental storyboarding. She's worked with both published and undiscovered authors on both fiction and nonfiction, and takes pride in supporting local businesses. Her passion lies in the written word and helping authors of all capacities realize their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. To learn more about her, read samples of her work, or contact her, visit her online portfolio.