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The plants in these lists are a combination of hardy native, naturalized, introduced and cultivated plants. Planting native species is recommended, however, some non-invasive, non-native plants are good choices for difficult growing conditions, particularly in urban areas. Some non-native trees and shrubs listed are resistant to disease and very tolerant of air pollution, road salt and dry conditions.

It is important to keep a balanced perspective when choosing plants for your school grounds because whether to plant native or non-native species is something that can quickly become very confusing. Whereas it is essential to plant native species when restoring the integrity of a natural ecosystem, the situation is quite different when transforming a typical schoolyard where the original natural environment has been dramatically altered or has disappeared completely.

No one knows how rising global temperatures due to climate change will affect existing native plant communities. One prediction is that trees adapted to, and requiring a cold climate for survival will need to "move" 100 kilometers north for each degree the temperature rises. As the climate warms, it is also predicted that plants and animals from regions south of the Canadian border will expand their range northwards. Likewise, certain pests and diseases usually killed off by long, cold Winters will be able to survive and spread further north and attack native plants that are currently fairly disease-free. The anticipated disruptions in weather patterns and rainfall are also expected to affect native plant communities.

People are often advised to plant native species due to their usefulness to wildlife; however, a large number of widely-planted, non-native plants that produce flowers, berries and seeds are also useful to native butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bees, birds and small mammals. Indeed, birds that migrate southwards for the Winter feed en route from a wide variety of plants that do not grow in Canada. Many introduced plants that have escaped into the wild have become naturalized and some of these escapees have coexisted with native plants for more than 200 years. To add to the confusion, some wildlife-useful native plants such as milkweeds, the preferred food of the Monarch butterfly, have been listed as "noxious weeds" in some provinces.

The best approach when selecting plants is to first assess the soil and the growing conditions on the site you have in mind and then choose your plant material accordingly. We encourage using discretion when choosing a non-native plant and to ensure that it is non-invasive. Invasive introduced plants, such as Purple Loosestrife, can cause serious problems when they escape to the wild because they can reduce habitat for wildlife by taking over natural areas and eliminating native species.

This would make a very interesting topic for discussion with students!

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