Native Prairie Plants

The Galt Museum & Archives is home to a unique public garden that highlights native prairie plants. It was created by the Lethbridge & District Horticultural Society to celebrate their 2009 Centennial, in cooperation with both the Galt and the Alberta Native Plant Council.

What is a native plant really? Definitions abound and none are completely satisfactory because you may be looking for a strictly scientific definition or all-purpose, practical one. Generally, though, a native plant is one that occurs naturally in a specific habitat/ecosystem/region without direct or indirect human action. There are, of course, “native” plants nearly everywhere on earth. The plants in the Galt Museum garden are all “native” to the Oldman River coulees surrounding the museum and we love watching our garden bloom alongside the coulees. It gives our visitors an opportunity to compare our labelled plants to those they may not recognize as they hike along the miles of trails in our river valley.

Using one possible all-purpose definition, in North America 1492, as the beginning of European exploration on this continent, is a useful date to determine if a plant is native or non-native. After that year the introduction of non-native species began and has continued to grow exponentially. But the waters get murky when we imply that “native” is good and “introduced” is not. Many introduced species have been come a problem (or worse, like Purple Loosestrife). But remember that there are also indigenous species that have colonized natural areas and crowded out their “native” neighbours just as there are introduced species that have provided huge economic benefits (corn and beans).

For more information mark your calendar and come to our workshop on Thursday, March 31 at 7 pm to learn about starting native plants from seed.