Native plants and animals are those that exist naturally in a given area. They are species that have not been introduced intentionally or accidentally by humans. Native plants and animals often have complex interrelationships that have developed over thousands of years. Both are extremely well-adapted to the natural environmental conditions in their native region and they often play a role in shaping and/or maintaining those conditions.
A diverse and healthy plant community is the key to maintaining a diverse and healthy wildlife population. The best way to improve your yard's appeal to and help native wildlife is to remove non-native and especially invasive plants, and replace them with a variety of native plants suitable to your area's soil and water conditions. Native plants will provide a year-round source for food and habitat for local wildlife.
Since native plants are already well adapted to the local climate, they tend to be heartier and require much less care than non-native plants. Landscaping your yard with native plants can reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental watering, mowing and other yard care related chores. In addition, many native plants are just as aesthetically pleasing as their non-native alternatives.
When people develop a piece of land, they usually remove most of the native vegetation and replace it with non-native grasses, trees and ornamental shrubs. While many of these plants do provide some benefit to wildlife, they have different qualities than native plants and may not be suitable to support native wild animals.
In addition to non-native plants that are intentionally planted in an area, there are many species of non-native plants that readily spread on their own when an area is developed. These aggressively spreading plants are known as "noxious weeds" or "invasives." They often grow so quickly, they choke out all other vegetation.
PAWS has even more information on improving wildlife habitat in your yard on our Naturescaping page.
King County Northwest Native Plant Landscaping Guide
This site contains tools that help you create a native plant list for your yard, make landscaping plans or just learn more about the native plants of the Pacific Northwest.
Washington Native Plant Society
Another great resource for learning more about Northwest native plants and landscaping.
Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board
This is an informative site with a wealth of information on Washington State weed laws and weed classification. It also includes a section with a weed identification guide and a page of links to county noxious weed control boards.
Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, Russell Link
Written by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Russell Link, this book contains all the information you need to turn your yard into ideal habitat for native wildlife. Available at major bookstores or directly from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.