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Photo: Thomas Barrat (Shutterstock) As spring approaches and you begin to think about what you’re going to plant in your garden and/or yard for the upcoming growing season, there’s a lot to consider: From what kinds of foods you want to grow, to your favorite types of flowers and shrubs, to which plants are the easiest to grow. But there’s something else that the U.S. Forest Service wants you to consider : Whether the plants are native to your area. Here’s what to know, and why it matters. Native plants vs. non-native plants vs. invasive species When botanists, biologists, and other environmental scientists talk about “native” plants , they’re referring to those that have developed in an area for hundreds—if not thousands—of years, and are part of the ecosystem. In the U.S., for example, plants are only considered “native” if they were here before the arrival of European colonizers. “Non-native” plants, on the other hand, originated outside of an area, but are able to grow there. Some, known as “adapted plants,” can coexist with native plants without escaping into natural areas and harming the ecosystem, according to Chris Enroth , a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension. But other non-native plants are far more problematic. Known as “invasive species,” these can cause environmental and economic harm as they spread—smothering, strangling, and/or covering the native plants in their path. Or, in the words of the U.S. Forest Service : “Invasive plants turn into landscape thugs by out-competing the […]