It’s May Day!  When I was a child, my siblings and I prepared for May Day by making May baskets out of construction paper. Then on May Day we filled them with flowers that our mother helped us pick from the yard.  We delivered them surreptitiously to each neighbor’s house, sneaking the colorful baskets onto the porch, ringing the doorbell then quickly hiding in the shrubbery.  It was so much fun!  I know the neighbors appreciated our efforts.  I think it helped me appreciate that I was part of a community.

May Day just happens to fall in the middle of Native Plant Appreciation Week!  Check out the Washington Native Plant Society’s web page for events and sales.

Us humans tend to appreciate native plants for the ways that they directly benefit us; we enjoy looking at Great Camas (Cammassia leichtlinii) and Trillium (Trillium ovatum) flowers or we value the Nootka Rose’s (Rosa nutkana) erosion-preventing ability and the beauty and scent of its flowers.  Particular features of a plant are often reason enough to plant them, but it is easy to lose sight of the Big Picture: the health of natural systems – communities of which we are a part.

Biodiversity, buffering against the effects of climate change, protection of clean water – these are just a few ways that native plant species contribute to the whole.  A rich variety of native plants helps provide built-in resilience against natural and human-caused disruptions.

What does “resilience” mean? My Webster’s Unabridged’s first definition: “An act of springing back; rebound, recoil, elasticity.”  How do we maintain and increase this resilience?  By caring for natural areas, maintaining ample buffers around water, protecting and increasing forest cover, and turning our yards and gardens into habitat.  We increase our local ecosystem’s resilience when we avoid using pesticides and weed-killers and make sure runoff from our driveways and roofs can be naturally absorbed into the soil on our own property.

Resilience in the ecosystem protects native creatures, such as amphibian species.  And ultimately, human life.  Native plants, from the majestic Western Red Cedar to the graceful blades of Oregon Iris are individual components participating in the community of life.

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