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Fight Flooding with Native Plants

Updated: May 21

Have you experienced flooding in your community? Unfortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects up to a 30% increase in flooding in the Midwest by the end of the century. The reason for this is warming temperatures leading to extreme storms and rapid melting of ice and snow. Flooding can harm individuals and communities in many ways. One way to help lessen the impact of flooding on communities is to plant native trees and plants.

In North America, a native plant is one that is indigenous to a particular place, and has occurred naturally there since before European settlers. The Arbor Day foundation states that native trees and plants can reduce the health, environmental and economic impact of heavy storms. This is because the long roots of native plants and trees hold on to more soil, leading to soft, spongy earth that is very good at absorbing rainwater. Asphalt, pavement and buildings, on the other hand, are known as "impermeable surfaces," because they have the opposite effect. In neighborhoods with less tree canopy and more impermeable surfaces, heavy rains can overwhelm drainage systems and cause water to pool in low-lying areas. Unfortunately, these areas are too often peoples' streets and homes! Floods can lead to accidents and injuries. They can also cause emotional distress--particularly when residents experience damage to property or lose access to important places like their healthcare facility or grocery store. Sometimes flooding causes sewers to back up, which can lead to infections and unsafe drinking water.

This time of year, many people are deciding what to purchase for their garden beds. When selecting ornamental plants for your yard, consider native species to reduce flooding. If you need help, you can reach out to the Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanical Garden or a number of native plant nurseries. Not only do native plants help prevent flooding, they provide food and homes for beneficial pollinators and require less watering and maintenance. Native trees and plants contribute to healthy ecosystems and green, safe, liveable communities.

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Pop-up Native Plant sales are also popular at this time of year. A quick Google search might yield results in your area.

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