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Beaver Marsh Trail - #2 - Native Plants


What is a Native plant? What is so special about native plants?

Native plants are plants that can grow in an area naturally without human influence or by being brought from another region in a specific location. They often serve as the foundation for ecosystems including wetlands and have important interactions with other members of an ecosystem. Most of the times, this interaction is being a source of food for many animals. They can convert solar energy into a form that is useable by plants and other organisms and this useable form is transferred throughout the ecosystem when animals eat plants or other animals. Native plants also help to improve the aesthetic of an environment and help make it unique from other regions.

Native and Non-native plants at Beaver Marsh

Native and Non-native plants at Beaver Marsh

What is an indicator plant?

Plants can be used to indicate the conditions of a local ecosystem. For example, Q. stellata is a tree species that does not grow well in sterile, sandy soil. Evergreen forests only grow in areas with high rainfall throughout the year and grasslands can be found only in regions where it rains mainly during the summer. Species like Utricularia, Wolffia grow only in very polluted regions and plants like Agrostis, Eupilobium, Pium Plum usually grow in areas with frequent wildfires.

Why are non-native plants a problem?

While native plants are usually very important for an ecosystem, non-native plants, which are often invasive plants, can be extremely harmful. Not only do they compete for nutrients and other resources but they can disrupt an ecosystem. Invasive plants are currently one of the biggest threats to biodiversity because they are much more capable of utilizing native sources than native plants and though can make an area filled with many different plant types become an area with only one or two plant types.

English Ivy growing in a natural area

English Ivy growing in a natural area

What native and non-native plants grow in Beaver Marsh?

Native Plants


  • Swamp chestnut oak
  • Red and white oak species
  • Persimmon
  • Sassafras
  • Black gum
  • Ironwood


  • Deciduous holly
  • Arrow-wood
  • Hearts-a-bustin’
  • Black haw
  • Blueberry
  • Swamp rose
  • Painted buckeye


  • Moonseed
  • Cross vine
  • Cucumber vine
  • Yellow passion flower


  • Crane-fly orchid
  • Groundnut
  • Seedbox
  • Lizard’s tail
  • Soft rush
  • Jewelweed
  • Arrowhead

Non-Native Plants

  • Uruguayan primrose
  • Garlic mustard
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Chinese privet
  • Japanese privet
  • Chinese Wisteria
  • Kudzu
  • English ivy
  • Japanese honeysuckle
  • Mimosa (aka silk tree)

What can I do to help promote native plants?

Non-native plants pose a big threat to local ecosystems but their harmful impacts can be reduced. One way to do so is to simply verify that the plants you use are not a non-native invasive species. Planting native plants can help restore the function and health of an ecosystem. Another way to help is by volunteering at parks or other wildlife areas to help remove any non-native plants.

A Native Plant Garden

A Native Plant Garden


More Info

Headshot of Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D.
Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D.

Looking for even more information?

Check out Nicolette Cagle's September Wildlife Report

Check out Nicolette Cagle's September Wildlife Report

Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D. is a passionate ecologist and environmental educator on the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She provides periodic Wildlife Reports on the flora and fauna in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed.



Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
331 W. Main, Ste. 511
Durham, NC 27701

These web pages are the Eagle Scout project of Mathew Jacob.
Thanks Mathew!