DURHAM, N.C. - Leaves are changing, birds are migrating, and the fall planting season has begun. Which means there’s no better time to start growing native plants in your yard to help birds and other pollinators. To commemorate the season, Audubon North Carolina has partnered with Gov. Roy Cooper to designate Oct. 17-23 as the sixth annual North Carolina Native Plants Week.
Native plants are important because they host caterpillars and other insects, which in turn are a vital food source for birds. Almost all land birds require insects to feed their young. Even birds we think of as seed-eaters or nectar drinkers often must feed their babies insects to ensure their survival.
Insects cannot adapt to eating non-native plants. Unfortunately, a yard full of non-native plants is essentially a food desert for our birds.
The good news is that your yard—and the kinds of plants in it—may be more important than you know to the survival of birds, and you can help beginning today. Get started with Audubon North Carolina’s online resources and virtual database, where you can plug in your zip code to find nurseries and native species near you.
“There’s no better time to dig into native plants than right now,” said Kim Brand, Engagement Director at Audubon North Carolina. “Fall is the best time for planting, and we’re also in peak migration. Right now, birds like the Wood Thrush are flying hundreds of miles at a time and getting fuel for their journeys from native plants and trees, like the berries from North Carolina’s very own state flower—the Flowering dogwood. Celebrate our natural heritage and help birds by getting your hands dirty with native plants this fall.”
Leave the Leaves
One of the most powerful tools to naturally improve the ecosystem in your yard is already lying on your lawn right now—fallen leaves! Learn more at our upcoming Leave the Leaves Webinar, hosted by New Hope Audubon from noon – 1 pm this Thursday, Oct. 20 on Zoom. Register here.
Karen Stine, retired professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Auburn University, will talk about all the ways leaves provide natural fertilizer and essential nutrients for the trees from which they fall, plus important habitat for most of our butterflies, moths, bees and insects, which in turn support birds. Join us Thursday.
Audubon chapters across North Carolina are advocating for native plants on an even bigger stage, speaking up for bird-friendly policies at their town halls and county commissions.
Cities and counties that have adopted native plants policies since 2018:
- Greensboro passed native plants-friendly changes to its land-use code and issued a Native Plants Week proclamation (in partnership with T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon)
- Watauga County passed a resolution to use and promote native plants on county-owned property (partnering with High Country Audubon Society and the High Country Restoration Coalition)
- Wake County passed a resolution in support of native plants in 2018 (partnering with Wake Audubon)
- Durham passed native plants-friendly changes to its landscape manual (partnering with New Hope Audubon)
- Town of Matthews changed its plant list (partnering with Mecklenburg Audubon),
- Winston Salem and Forsyth County changed its plant list (partnering with Forsyth Audubon)
- Asheville banned invasive plants on city property and promoted the use of native plants (partnering with Blue Ridge Audubon)
State-wide, we've also made significant progress on native plants. In recent years, Audubon helped pass two bipartisan bills at the North Carolina General Assembly that ensures the Department of Transportation will prioritize native species of trees, grasses, and legumes for highway plantings. Another bill by Sen. Bill Rabon—the strongest native plants bill yet—would ensure native plants are used for landscaping on state property. The bill passed the Senate two years ago but hasn't yet passed the entire legislature.
Five years ago, Audubon kicked off the first Native Plants Week with First Lady Kristin Cooper by planting 1,000 native plants at the Executive Mansion. Today, birds and butterflies flock to the garden and thrive off the berries, flowers, and seeds of all that is growing in just a few acres of green space in downtown Raleigh.
Stay tuned later this week for a special update on how the garden is faring five years after our initial planting.
Media Contact: Ben Graham, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Audubon North Carolina
Audubon North Carolina, a state program of the National Audubon Society, has offices in Durham, Boone, Corolla, and Wilmington. Learn more at www.nc.audubon.org and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.