Non-natives as good as natives for bugs, survey finds

A ground-breaking project has discovered the true value of different types of plants for wildlife.

The five-year pineering Plants for Bugs project results revealed at the Wildlife Gardening Forum Conference at RHS Wisley on 17 March show that native plants are not necessarily better for wildlife than non-natives.

RHS scientists Helen Bostock and Andrew Salisbury led an examination on the value of native and non-native plant assemblages for biodiversity leading to evidence-based advice for the wildlife gardener.

Salisbury was keen to say he had discovered only preliminary results but the overwhelming conclusion was that near natives, and even one exotic plant, was as good for wildlife as natives.

They hoped to tackle wildlife planting guidance for gardeners, which is largely based on anecdotal evidence or assumptions that have been shown to be untrue, for example that nettles in gardens will attract butterflies.

One widely held assumption is that native plants are vital to attract wildlife to gardens. In fact, approximately 70 per cent of plants in the ‘average’ garden are non-native yet these gardens are rich in biodiversity.

The Plants for Bugs project tested the hypothesis that there is no difference in invertebrate diversity associated with assemblages of native, near-native and exotic garden border plants.

Plants for Bugs was a field experiment which compared invertebrate diversity on plots containing one of three plant assemblages (treatments) based on the geographical origin of the plants. These are:

  • Native plants (naturally occurring in Britain and of British provenance where possible)  
  • Near-native plants (not native to Britain, but originating in the Northern hemisphere.
  • Exotic plants (not native to Britain, but originating in the Southern hemisphere.
  • The experiment consisted of 36 plots (each 3x3m) at two sites at Wisley.

By the end of 2013 more than 80,000 invertebrates had been counted and identified, including 47 different species of ground beetle, more than 50 species of spider and 16 species of butterfly.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Business Planning - Be prepared for living wage rise

Business Planning - Be prepared for living wage rise

Cutting staff is not always a smart response to higher labour costs, writes Neville Stein.

Battery blowers Reviewed: will battery blowers go the distance?

Battery blowers Reviewed: will battery blowers go the distance?

Fed up of having to start and restart blowers? Then there is the refuelling, mixing the two-stroke and carrying a spare can. Once running, emissions can be unpleasant and noise from a petrol engine demands earmuffs be worn. An alternative is battery power.

Pruners reviewed: what's the latest in pruning equipment?

Pruners reviewed: what's the latest in pruning equipment?

In a gunslinging action, Nixon twirls a loop-handled pruner around his finger and pretends to holster the tool. But there are no cowboys here.


The Horticulture Week Business Awards is now open for entries

Horticulture Week Top 70 Landscape and maintenance contractors

See our exclusive RANKING of landscape and maintenance contractors by annual turnover plus BUSINESS TRENDS REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs


Build your business with the latest public sector tenders covering landscape, arboriculture, grounds care, production and kit supplies. To receive the latest tenders weekly to your inbox sign up for our Tenders Tracker bulletin here.

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.


Free to subscribers, the essential guide for professional plant buyers

Download your copy

Products & Kit Resources