About Native Plants

Learning to Know the Native Plants of Kansas

Swallowtail on Asclepias tuberosa. Photo: Matthew Richter

What is a Native Plant?

Native plants have evolved in a particular region, adapting to climate, soil, water, and interaction with other plant and animal species. They have not been altered by humans. Rather,  native plants remain in their natural state with natural selection determining the combination of characteristics that best enable them to survive in their particular ecosystem.

Plants native to the prairie are adapted to the climate, soil, water, and interactions with plants and animals that also exist there.


Swallowtail on Cup Plant 3
Swallowtail on Cup Plant. Photo credit: Krista Dahlinger

What is an Invasive/Exotic?

Invasive, alien species are plants, animals, or other organisms that are introduced to a given area outside their original range. Their presence can threaten human health, causing economic and environmental harm in their new home. Because they have no natural enemies to limit their reproduction, they usually spread rampantly. Invasive alien species are recognized as one of the leading threats to biodiversity. 

Download the Invasive Plant Fact Sheet

Lespedeza cuneata photo: Richard Gardner bugwood.org
Lespedeza cuneata. photo: Richard Gardner bugwood.org

What is a Nativar/Cultivar?

Cultivars are plants that are developed through human intervention by breeding for characteristics including color, shape, or size.  Cultivars are not native plants and are not native to any region of the planet.

Nativar is a new marketing term for cultivars of a native plant species. There is little evidence that nativar plants provide the same ecological functions as native plants. Results vary by species and many nativars fall short in ecological benefits, meaning they cannot be utilized by butterflies, wild bees, and other wildlife. 

Hibiscus_cultivar_MG_6097_photo by Matthew Richter
Hibiscus cultivar. photo: Matthew Richter