Native plants are plants endemic (indigenous) to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants).
Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings. Research has found that insects depend on native plants.
An alternative, but potentially conflicting, usage is to describe plants (and animals) that are indigenous to a geographical area, even if they are known to have self-introduced in historical times, e.g. the Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) of New Zealand, which was first recorded in the 19th century.
An ecosystem consists of interactions of plants, animals, and microorganisms with their physical (e.g., soil conditions and processes) and climatic conditions.
Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. This could be a case where a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasional wildfires, to release their seeds or to provide a fertile environment where their seedlings can become established.
Invasive and native plants
As societies move plants to new locations for cultivation as crops or ornamentals (or transport them by accident), some of them may become invasive species, damaging native plant communities. Besides ecological damage, these species can also damage agriculture, infrastructure, and cultural assets. Government agencies and environmental groups are directing increasing resources to addressing these species and their potential interactions with climate change. Non-native species can have profound effects on ecosystems by changing ecosystem structure, function, species abundance, and community composition.
When restoration projects are undertaken to restore a native ecological system disturbed by economic development or other events, they often are historically inaccurate and incomplete, and pay little or no attention to ecotype accuracy or type conversions. They fail to restore the original ecological system, overlooking the basics of remediation: attention paid to the historical distribution of native species is a crucial first step to ensure the ecological integrity of the project. To prevent erosion of the recontoured sand dunes at the western edge of the Los Angeles International Airport in 1975, landscapers stabilized the backdunes with a “natural” seed mix (Mattoni 1989a). Unfortunately, the seed mix was representative of coastal sage scrub, an exogenous plant community, instead of the native dune scrub community. As a result, the El Segundo blue butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni) became an endangered species. The El Segundo Blue butterfly population, which had once extended over 3200 acres along the coastal dunes from to Ocean Park to Malaga cove in Palos Verdes, began to recover when the invasive California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) was uprooted so that the butterflies' original native plant host, the dune buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium), could regain some of its lost habitat.
Humans, migratory birds, ocean currents, etc. can introduce species that have never met in their evolutionary history, on varying time scales ranging from days to decades (Long, 1981; Vermeij, 1991). Humans are moving species across the globe at an unprecedented rate. Those working to address invasive species view this as an increased risk to indigenous species.
The term Nativar is becoming widely accepted as cultivars of native plants. The use of nativars is a widely disputed practice among native plant activists.
Native plant movement
Native plant proponents, such as Sara Stein, and native plant organizations, such as Wild Ones, the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the New England Wildflower Society, the North American Native Plant Society, the California Native Plant Society, and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center  also encourage gardeners to use earth-friendly gardening practices, especially in public spaces. The identification of local plant communities provides a basis for their work.
- California native plants (examples)
- Community ecology
- Exotic plants
- Genetic evolution
- Introduced species
- Invasive species
- Landscape ecology
- Native Woodland Survey of Scotland
- Natural environment
- Natural landscaping
- Plant community
- Restoration ecology
- Sustainable agriculture
- Tallamy, Douglas (2007). Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Timber Press.
- "Point Reyes National Seashore, Drakes Estero, A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary", National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, p. 16.
- Travis Longcore, Rudi Mattoni, Gordon Pratt, and Catherine Rich, "On the perils of ecological restoration and the El Segundo blue butterfly", in press, for 2nd Interface Between Ecology and Land Development in California. Occidental College, April 18-19, 1997 On line.
- Black, S. H., and D. M. Vaughan, "Species profile: Euphilotes battoides allyni, El Segundo Blue", Red List of Pollinator Insects of North America. CD - ROM Version 1 (May 2005). Portland, OR: The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. (2005)
- "California's butterflies: The El Segundo Blue", Quino Checkerspot Captive Breeding Program, Vista Murrieta High School. On line.
- "Nativars" Courtesy of Watermarkwoods.com
- Stein, Sara (1993). Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards. Houghton-Mifflin.
- "North American Native Plant Society". nanps.org. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- California Native Plant Society
- "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center". Wildflower.org. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- Returning Essential Wildflowers to America’s Landscapes: Project Milkweed, Xerces Society Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
- Mary M. Walker, "Native Plant Societies of the United States and Canada". On line.
- Long, John L. 1981. Introduced birds of the world: The worldwide history, distribution and influence of birds introduced to new environments. New York, Universe Books, New York City; Sydney, Reed ISBN 0-589-50260-3
- Vermeij, Geerat J. 1991. When biotas meet: Understanding biotic interchange. Science, 253:1099-1104 (6 September 1991)
- "About Native Plants", from the Dorothy King Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
- Using native cultivars in a native landscape: http://www.watermarkwoods.com