Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings. Research has found that insects depend on native plants.
An alternative but potentially conflicting usage is to describe plants (and animals) that are indigenous to a geographical area, even if they are known to have self-introduced in historical times such as the silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) of New Zealand, which was first recorded in the 19th century.
An ecosystem consists of interactions of plants, animals, and microorganisms with their physical (such as soil conditions and processes) and climatic conditions.
Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. That could be a case if a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasional wildfires, to release their seeds or to provide a fertile environment in which their seedlings can become established.
As societies move plants or introduce them to new locations for cultivation as crops or ornamentals (or transport them by accident)(see 'Human impact on the environment'), some of them may become invasive species, damaging native plant communities. Besides ecological damage, these species can also damage agriculture, infrastructure, and cultural assets. Government agencies and environmental groups are directing increasing resources to addressing these species and their potential interactions with climate change. Non-native species can have profound effects on ecosystems by changing ecosystem structure, function, species abundance, and community composition.