The Role of Native Plants in Providing Ecosystem Services: Insights from MSU Extension


The MSU Extension Native Plants and Ecosystem Services program provides information on a wide range of native plants and their benefits to the ecosystem. Native plants play a crucial role in providing habitat and food for wildlife, including butterflies and other pollinators. They also contribute to ecosystem services like nutrient cycling, erosion control, and water filtration.

One of the featured plants in this program is the Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laevis). This plant is known for its clusters of small, dark purple flowers that bloom from late summer to fall. The foliage of the Smooth Aster is fairly sturdy and hairless, which gives it a modern and clean look. It is a popular choice for borders, prairies, and other natural landscaping designs.

The Smooth Aster is easy to grow and thrives in a variety of soil types, including clay and sandy soils. It is less demanding in terms of cultivation and management compared to more exotic plants. Detailed information on its planting and cultivation can be found on the MSU Extension website, along with photos and comments from nurseries and gardeners who have successfully rooted and grown this plant.

If you are interested in using native plants for ecosystem restoration or landscaping purposes, the MSU Extension Native Plants and Ecosystem Services program is a great resource. It provides information on a wide range of native plants, including asters, and their specific benefits to the ecosystem.

Modern Cuisine Rooted in Nashville Flavors

If you’re looking to experience the unique flavors of Nashville, there’s no better way to do it than by exploring the native plants that thrive in this region. These plants not only provide a rich culinary experience with their delicious fruits and fragrant flowers, but they also support the local ecosystem and provide important services.

Native plants are well-suited to the climate zones found in and around Nashville. They have adapted to the local soils and can thrive in a variety of conditions. Whether you’re looking to create a beautiful pollinator garden or add some unique flavors to your dishes, there are native plants that can meet your needs.

One popular native plant in Nashville is the Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve). This plant is known for its clusters of smooth stems and vibrant flowers. It attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies and provides important habitat for these insects. The Smooth Aster is fairly sturdy and can tolerate a range of light and soil conditions.

Another native plant to consider is the Wood’s Aster (Symphyotrichum laevis). This plant is also known for its attractive clusters of flowers and is a favorite of gardeners and landscapers. It has hairless foliage and can grow in a variety of soils and light conditions. The Wood’s Aster is often used in landscaping and restoration projects.

If you’re interested in cultivating these native plants, there are several nurseries in Nashville that offer a wide selection. For more detailed information on cultivation and management, you can visit the MSU Extension website. They have a wealth of resources and photos available to help you get started.

In conclusion, the native plants of Nashville offer a world of flavors and beauty that can enhance your modern cuisine. From the vibrant flowers of the Smooth Aster to the versatile Wood’s Aster, these plants are a wonderful addition to any garden or dish. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the unique flavors rooted in Nashville’s native flora!

MSU Extension Native Plants and Ecosystem Services

Native plants play a crucial role in supporting ecosystems and providing various beneficial services. They are essential for the survival of many pollinators, including butterflies and bees, and help maintain the overall health of natural habitats.

One popular native plant is the blue wood’s aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium). This plant is known for its beautiful clusters of small, blue flowers that bloom across woodlands and prairies. It attracts pollinators and adds a vibrant touch to any garden or landscape.

When planting blue wood’s aster, it is important to consider its preferred habitat. It thrives in well-drained soils, and its foliage looks best in full sun or light shade. The plant is fairly low maintenance and can grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-8.

Another native plant that supports pollinators is the smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laevis). It produces clusters of lavender or pink flowers that attract various butterflies and other insects. Smooth aster is also adaptable to different soil types and light conditions, making it suitable for a range of garden settings.

Native plants not only provide beauty and attractiveness to landscapes, but they also offer numerous ecosystem services. They help improve soil quality, prevent erosion, and provide food and habitat for wildlife. By planting native species, you are contributing to the conservation of local biodiversity and promoting sustainability.

At MSU Extension, we offer detailed information on native plant cultivation and related topics. Our experts provide insights into the best practices for planting and maintaining native plants, as well as tips for attracting pollinators to your garden. Through our resources and guidance, you can create a thriving ecosystem that benefits both nature and your community.

If you’re interested in learning more about native plants and their ecosystem services, please explore our website for more information, photos, and cultivation notes. We also welcome any comments or questions you may have. Together, we can create a more sustainable and beautiful environment for all.

Pollinators attracted

Smooth aster (Aster laevis) is a native plant that attracts a wide variety of pollinators to your garden or landscape. The hairless foliage and smooth stems of this plant make it less attractive to pests and disease-related issues. It mostly grows in prairies, woodlands, and wetlands, but can also be planted in gardens and borders. Smooth aster attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with its vibrant blue flowers that bloom from late summer to early fall.

Smooth aster is also known by other common names, such as Wood’s aster, East Tennessee aster, andor Nashville aster. Its scientific name, Aster laevis, reflects its smooth leaves, which wrap around the stems like a moon.

In addition to attracting pollinators, smooth aster provides various ecosystem services. It helps control erosion and improves soil health with its deep, well-rooted system. It is also a good plant for wet areas and is often used in restoration projects.

For more information about smooth aster, including photos and cultivation tips, please visit the MSU Extension Native Plants and Ecosystem Services website. You can also find comments and notes from our sponsors and experts. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Pests attracted

Native plants provide numerous ecosystem services, including attracting beneficial insects such as pollinators. However, they can also attract pests. One common pest attracted to native plants is the aster leaf beetle. Aster leaf beetles are small, dark blue beetles that feed on the leaves and flowers of asters and other related plants. They can cause significant damage to the foliage, which can impact the overall health and appearance of the plant.

The aster leaf beetle is attracted to the smooth, mostly hairless leaves and stems of asters. It lays its eggs in clusters on the plant and the larvae feed on the leaves, causing further damage. If left unchecked, the beetle can spread to other plants in the vicinity, including garden asters and other species in the Asteraceae family.

Aster cordifolius, commonly known as blue wood aster or blue heart-leaved aster, is a native plant that can attract the aster leaf beetle. This plant has sturdy stems and heart-shaped leaves. In late summer and early fall, it produces small, blue flowers in clusters at the top of the stems. The dark blue foliage and attractively shaped flowers make it a popular choice for borders, prairies, and woodland gardens.

If you are considering planting blue wood aster or any other aster species, it is important to note that they may attract pests such as the aster leaf beetle. However, with proper management and attention, the benefits of native plants and their ecosystem services far outweigh the potential impacts of pests. By planting a diverse range of native plants, you can help create habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects, while also supporting the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem.

For more information on native plants and ecosystem services, please visit the MSU Extension Native Plants and Ecosystem Services website. You can also find detailed information on specific plants, including their cultivation and pest management, in the resources provided by MSU Extension and other reputable nurseries.

Plant notes

MSU Extension offers valuable information about native plants and their importance in supporting pollinators and ecosystem services. Native plants are a crucial resource for pollinators, attracting bees, butterflies, and beetles that visit mostly for nectar and pollen. These plants are excellent options for border plantings, restoration projects, and landscaping. They are widely available at nurseries and can be planted in gardens and natural areas.

One native plant species to consider is Symphyotrichum laevis, commonly known as smooth blue aster. It is a perennial plant that grows in zones 4-8 and reaches a height of 2-4 feet. The flowers are attractive to pollinators and have a deep blue color, adding a pop of color to any garden. The stems of this plant are sturdy and hairless, making it less prone to breakage.

This plant prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate a range of soil types. It blooms from late summer to early fall, providing a late-season source of nectar for pollinators. The flowers are arranged in clusters, creating a beautiful display. It can be grown in full sun to part shade, although it prefers full sun.

If you are interested in planting Symphyotrichum laevis or other native plants, please consult our detailed planting and management notes for more information. These notes provide guidance on soil preparation, planting techniques, pest management, and habitat restoration. They also include information on the plant’s benefits and ecosystem services.

Native plants play a crucial role in supporting pollinators and enhancing ecosystem services. By planting these plants, you can attract pollinators to your garden or natural area and contribute to the conservation of native plant species. So, consider adding some native plants to your landscape and enjoy the beauty they bring while supporting our pollinators and the environment.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.