First graders at Willard Elementary School recently received a lesson about the benefits of using native plants from R&S Landscaping’s Specialty Gardener, Julie Watson.

They were also taught about invasive plants that endanger native plant species and the importance of preventing their spread. Invasive species are defined as species that are non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm.

Mr. Kearns’ class, who hosted Watson, learned that invasive plant life spreads aggressively and monopolizes resources that native species rely on. These resources are as simple as light, water, space to grow, and nutrients found in the soil. If a non-native plant grows taller than a native species, then the taller, non-native will thrive and block out the sun for the smaller, native plants leaving them helpless.

The students were shown how invasive, non-native species are the second leading cause of species extinction. It is second only to complete habitat destruction. New Jersey is home to a diverse group of plant life, mammals, and insects. All of them rely on the local plant life for food and/or shelter. If the plants they rely on are unable to grow, then you will definitely see a decline in diversity among local wildlife.

The lesson was in preparation for the students’ participation in R&S Landscaping’s 3rd annual Poster Contest. The contest theme is “New Jersey Native Plants.” R&S holds a contest each year around Earth Day to inspire creativity and encourage Bergen County students to be more aware of the diversity and activity in their gardens and local ecosystem.