LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — As the Midstate slips into spring and residents prepare to plant their gardens, the Lancaster Native Plant and Wildlife Festival will help Central Pennsylvanians consider native species in their planting plans.

Native species exist in an area naturally without human intervention. Native plants and animals have evolved together and rely on one another to survive, Habitat Manheim Township volunteer Jose Diaz says, but human interventions can be detrimental to that system.

“When we use all the time exotic plants — the ones we all love and see in our gardens and the greenhouses and garden centers — exclusively, we are losing the perspective that they are not helping to keep wildlife in your garden,” Diaz said.

Native plants provide nectar and pollen for pollinators (which, Diaz notes, are important for plants but also for people who eat crops that require pollination) and act as an important foundation for food webs and habitats.

Diaz has been a volunteer with Habitat Manheim Township for about 10 years. The organization began with plant sales and an effort to establish a native plant landscape around the Manheim Township Public Library. Then the group decided to offer more educational outreach programs, and that’s when it created the Native Plant and Wildlife Festival.

“It’s a unique opportunity of friendship, camaraderie,” Diaz said. He hopes that people who attend the festival see that it’s never too late to start gardening with native species.

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Habitat Manheim Township works with the township to put on the festival. Alex Van Pelt, environmental education program manager with the Manheim Township Recreation and Park Planning Department, hopes people attending the event “learn something about how important native plants and animals are.”

“There’s a lot of things that anybody can do, just small things that can make a difference,” Van Pelt said.

The festival on April 30 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. will include speakers such as Raven Ridge Wildlife Center, a tour of Overlook Park habitat rehabilitation efforts, vendors, and native plant nurseries. It will be held at Overlook Park in Manheim Township with the speakers at the Manheim Township Public Library. A full list of programs and vendors can be found here.

There will be experts at the festival to help visitors learn more about selecting and growing native plants, but for those thinking ahead, Diaz says some of his favorite native species include golden ragwort for ground cover, echinacea or coneflower for birds, bee balm with its flowers that are perfect for hummingbird feeding, and aromatic mountain mint.