Intro to Ornamentals

Written by P. Sakiel 

Since 1737, at the start of the nursery industry in the United States, we have been practicing ornamental horticulture. These plants can be found in every garden store and nursery nationwide. But what is an ornamental plant? An ornamental is any species grown for decorative purposes. These can range from trees to shrubs to annual flowers.

Ornamentals can be separated into three groups; natives, invasive, and non-native. Natives are species that have developed over hundreds years to be adapted to living in a particular environment. An example and one of my favorite plants is elderberry. It provides food for about 45 different bird species. Invasives are species that outcompete other species causing damage to an ecosystem.

Phragmites or common reed is one of the most notorious and resilient invasives here in NYC. It can be found near bodies of water and roadsides. Non-natives are species that are not from the habitat they reside in but have a neutral or positive effect on the ecosystem. Indiana’s state flower, the peony, is not native to the region but has naturalized over several decades. Our choices in plants in our backyards can greatly increase biodiversity; the variety of life and processes.

When shopping please look into native species in your area and do some research before choosing any non-native or invasive species! Perfect examples of beneficial native NYC ecosystems can be found in pollinator gardens. Check out Calvert Vaux Park, South Oxford and Mccarren Parks.