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      So many plants, so little time

      In the Upper Peninsula, you don't have to wander far to encounter nature at its best.

      And with thousands of native plants, it's no wonder.

      "The best thing about native plants; No fertilizer, we do not water, they're self-maintained. Very easy. We just have to remove the invasive species. So that's why we have the Wednesday weeding," said Renee Leow, Administrator for the Marquette County Conservation District.

      There are eight categories of native plants: Trees, shrubs, ferns, vines, grasses, sedges, rushes, and wildflowers.

      Species from all categories can easily be found in your backyard if you live in the U.P.

      Some of the most common include goldenrod, swamp aster, northern sweet grass, and sugar maple trees.

      But there are so many more common plants native to the U.P.

      "There are a lot of plants like evening primrose, which is in the yellow family, black-eyed Susan. Then you have some purples coming in right now. bee balm, blazing star. Oh there's just so many. There's just too many to mention," said Leow.

      Leow says the common milkweed plant, which is native here in the Upper Peninsula, is very important. It serves as kind of a "half-way house" for butterflies here in the U.P.

      Pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, flock to host plants like the milkweed.

      Monarch larvae feed exclusively on milkweeds, and seem to create their chrysalis on the plant.

      "I really like native plants because of their ease. I think that we're so busy that this provides a really easy solution for gardening. A beautiful garden, as well. And it's a great, more importantly native plants create a great habitat for pollinators. It's a great pollinator habitat for the bees and the butterflies and the birds," said Leow.

      But sometimes, plants that are not native to our area take root, and take over or destroy the native plants.

      The Central Upper Peninsula Weed Management Area, or CUPWMA, helps to rid the central U.P. Of these invasive species.

      "We've been working a lot with garlic mustard, spotted knapweed. We did a little wild parsnip work. Also some black swallow wart. Right now it's primarily spotted knapweed that we're working with," said Abbie Debiak, Coordinator for CUPWMA.

      Invasive species can easily get here.

      Their seeds can attach to animals or humans, and go wherever they take them.

      "They kind of take over and once they get in a spot, if they're not controlled, they spread like wildfire so it's best to nip them when they get started. Otherwise, you get a pretty big infestation that'll crowd out a lot of the natives that should be there," said Debiak.

      There are a number of edible plants native to the U.P., as well.

      Garlic mustard, the invasive plant species, is actually edible.

      You can pick it in the wild and steam the leaves.

      There's also the wild blueberry, as well as the wild carrot.

      If you would like to learn more about native plant gardens, the Marquette County Conservation District holds 'Wednesday weeding' every Wednesday from 8a.m. to 10a.m. at the four native plant gardens they maintain.

      Everyone is welcome.

      For more on native plants, click here.

      For more on edible plants, click here.

      To learn more about the Marquette County Conservation District's native plant gardens, click here.