As long-lived perennials adapted to local growing conditions, native plants provide durable cover for Iowa's roadsides. The roots of these plants typically reach depths of 6 to 15 feet. This enables them to withstand drought conditions, high salt concentrations and other environmental stresses. Native grasses are warm-season species that, instead of going dormant, continue to thrive and grow through the long, hot summer.
Native prairie plant communities, in contrast, consist of various grasses and wildflowers (forbs) that are adapted to a wide variety of soil types and climatic conditions. They also have deep, fibrous root systems that help prevent soil erosion and allow for greater infiltration of rainfall. The dense, rigid nature of prairie vegetation also helps to slow down run-off, in turn catching sediment which otherwise would pollute our streams and rivers. Suspended sediment is the number one pollutant of Iowa’s rivers and lakes.
Benefits of Native Vegetation
Improved erosion control and slope stabilization
Adaptation to a wide range of soil conditions
Greater ability to combat weeds
Increased infiltration of storm water runoff
Increased capture of blowing and drifting snow
Improved habitat for pheasants, songbirds and important pollinator species
Beautification with colorful wildflowers and native grasses