Definition of Native Plants

What is a Native Plant?

The issue of whether something is native or not has two components: geography and time. As usually defined by the botanical community, native plants (indigenous plants) are those that originated in a given geographic area without human involvement or that arrived there without intentional or unintentional intervention of humans from an area in which they originally originated. By contrast, non native plants (also called alien, exotic, or non indigenous plants) owe their presence in a given geographic area to intentional or unintentional human involvement.

Considering the Great Plains region, there is limited information about how Native Americans affected the ranges of individual species, but various sources allow interferences to be drawn regarding which species likely were native and which were introduced (either by Native American or Euro Americans). Specimen based records of the flora for the Great Plains begin in the early 1800s, so the arrival of Euro Americans is often used as a starting point for determining if something is native here or not. This doesn't ignore the possibility that Native Americans might have brought species to the Great Plains that subsequently became established as part of the flora. It is known that they moved plants that had cultural importance, but these are but a small subset of all the species here.

About Kansas Plants

Over 2000 of the plants found in Kansas are vascular flowering plants. Vascular plants have true leaves, stems, and roots. They have a xylem layer that transports water and nutrients. Flowering plants reproduce by enclosed seeds - an egg is enclosed in the pistil and is fertilized by the pollen. These plants are pollinated by insects, wind, and are self-pollinated.

We have one conifer in Kansas. Conifers are vascular and reproduce by naked seeds. The egg is pollinated directly when the pollen comes in contact with the egg. Conifers are wind pollinated.

We have 40+ ferns and fern allies in Kansas. These are vascular but non-flowering. They reproduce by spores. The spores develop into egg and sperm producing structures. The sperm fertilizes the egg and produces a new plant.

We have 200+ bryophytes in Kansas. Bryophytes are non-vascular and non-flowering. Bryophytes have no true roots or true leaves. They include the mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Like ferns they reproduce by spores.