Answers to Common Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions around planting your native plant garden. 

Native insects (e.g. the caterpillars of butterflies and moths) do feed on the foliage of native plants but almost never to the point of denuding the plants or making them look unsightly. Nature always works towards a balance, so a tree or shrub that has an abundance of feeding caterpillars will attract the birds that feed on those caterpillars.

Goldenrods do not cause hay fever. The pollen of goldenrod is too heavy and sticky to travel on the wind. That’s why goldenrods are insect-pollinated, not wind-pollinated. Late summer and fall hay fever is caused by ragweed, a very common native annual whose green, inconspicuous flowers liberate lots of dusty pollen that can travel great distances on the wind.

The chances that a tick will make a home in your urban garden is relatively low. Ticks need to be transported there by other animals (e.g. on you, your pet, or on a wild animal; most often birds). That said, with warming global temperatures, ticks are expanding their range northward and Hamilton has become a hot spot for deer ticks and dog ticks in recent years. Deer ticks (or black-legged ticks) can carry Lyme disease and are most often encountered in forested areas on low-growing foliage. The larger dog ticks are found in more open areas (e.g. meadows and woodland edges) but do not carry Lyme disease. Become tick aware and educate yourself on tick ecology. Tuck your pants into your socks and use an insect repellent to deter them from latching on. Do daily tick checks, especially after you do some gardening or go for a walk in a natural area. When you get home put your clothes in the dryer for at 15 minutes or more to kill any ticks you may have missed and have a shower.

It is best to avoid using cultivated varieties (cultivars) of native plants. Cultivars are genetic selections based on a particular trait (e.g. shape, flower size or foliage colour). They are propagated by cloning so their genetics are identical. In this age of climate change, it is better to buy native plants grown from seed that have natural genetic variability, allowing them to adapt to the changing weather