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Native Plant Festival Stresses Benefits of Keeping It Local

by on May 03, 2015 2:00 PM

When people hear the term "native plants," they often think of weeds that need to be removed from the landscape.

The Central PA Native Plant Festival was held on Saturday at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, attempting to put an end to the stigma associated with that term.

Dave Cornman is a Pennsylvania native plant salesman. He owns Spring Haven Nursery along with his wife Dianne, located in Newburg. Cornman spends most of his time on the road, attending shows and events like the one held at Shaver's Creek on Saturday.

"It's important to see these plants being put back into the landscape," he says. "Too many people have the attitude that if it's native, it must be a weed. And for the most part, native plants aren't weeds."

Cornman says native plants are a necessary part of any ecosystem, as they live in harmony with insects and animals that are also native to the area. 

"They provide food and they're great pollinators for native insects, bees, butterflies, and animals," he says.

Polly Herman stopped by the native plant festival to look for some additions to the greenery at her home. Herman says she had never attended the festival, but was excited by the fact that she could bring some benefits to the ecosystem while beautifying her lawn.

"It might be a lot of years until this really grows in, but it's really nice to know I'm doing some good by using a native tree," she says. "I had no idea about this whole native plant thing before today."

Betsy Whitman is an avid native plant gardner and the co-organizer of the festival. She exudes passion when discussing native plants and how important they are.

"If a plant is native to an area and in the right micro-habitat, it's less of a drain on nutrients on water because it grows there naturally," she says. "It has also evolved along with birds, insects, and the fauna of the area. The birds and insects feed on the insects that feed on the tree. A nesting bird needs caterpillars, which native plants are host to. They really benefit the entire ecosystem."

Whitman is a part of the Native Plant Society, which had an information booth at Saturday's event with books and information on native plants and their benefits. 

"We're a society promoting the use of native plants in the landscape with the idea that as more land is turned into construction, we need to have these pockets of native plants so that the animal population is not disrupted," Whitman says. "It's all well and good to walk around and look at plants, but we try and help people understand how to arrange plants in their home gardens and things like that."

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Zach Berger is the managing editor of StateCollege.com. He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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