• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Leigh Tate
  • jordan barton
stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • paul wheaton
  • Liv Smith
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • John F Dean
gardeners:
  • Nancy Reading
  • Beau Davidson
  • Heather Sharpe

the dark side of native plant enthusiasm

 
Posts: 53
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
14
forest garden trees urban homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The whole "only grow native plants" attitude just seems like virtue signaling to me.  "Native to when?" is a really good point.  If a non native type of milkweed showed up 500 years ago, we would be calling it native.  

I recently got into a conversation with a lady who was imploring people to make sure the plants they were getting (from a local tree giveaway) were natives, down to the specific variety.  As in, don't get this dwarf variety of firebush because it isn't native.  You can ONLY plant Hamelia patens var. patens, not Hamelia compacta, or you'll DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT!!  The reality is that hummingbirds who feed off firebush nectar don't understand or care about the taxonomy.  It's the same thing to them.

The more you examine the concept of native plants, the more it seems to dissolve.  Granted, there are limits- I obviously wouldn't plant brazilian pepper trees in my yard.  But if I only planted true native species, I'd have no food to eat.  There is an 80 year old mango tree in my yard.  I'm in south Florida, and mangoes are native to Asia.  Should I cut down the tree?
 
pollinator
Posts: 888
Location: 6a
276
hugelkultur dog forest garden trees cooking woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Native is arbitrary.  This is one of the first videos I watched when I started my food forest.  RIP Toby.  (I didn't realize it at the time but this is actually a Paul vid)



 
pollinator
Posts: 11836
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
1158
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Inspiring video from Geoff Lawton: "Native Versus Exotic Species"  


 
gardener
Posts: 3530
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
1151
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This, too, is a really nuanced article, pointing out that only a minority of non-native species wind up getting tarred with the "invasive" label and subjected to eradication efforts:

What Happens When Humans Fall In Love With An Invasive Species

It’s very common to have a plant or animal seem obviously harmful to one group of people and obviously benign to another. Take cats. “Cats are introduced all over the world. They have massive impacts on native songbird populations. But nobody in their right mind would classify them as invasive and try to control them,” Cadotte said. “I mean, except Australia.”

There are plenty of other examples. Take those salmon introduced to Lake Superior and prized by many sport fishermen. The state of Minnesota regulates the size and quantity of salmon you can catch, which helps keep their numbers stable. The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, on the other hand, treats salmon as an invasive species that it wants gone. There’s no limit on how many of the fish tribal members can catch. In the past, the tribe has actually killed non-native sport fish in its streams in order to more effectively stock those streams with native trout, said Seth Moore, director of biology and environment for the Grand Portage band.

Another example: The earthworms that live in the soil along the shores of Lake Superior are invaders from Europe, and while they’re great for gardens, they alter soil quality in forests and make those ecosystems less hospitable to native plants, said Stuart Reitz, professor of entomology at Oregon State University. In other parts of the country, beekeepers and ranchers have fought bitterly over whether an invasive flower, called yellow starthistle, should be considered generally beneficial (because it is to bees) or generally harmful (because it is to livestock), said Mark Hoddle, director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California, Riverside.

This isn’t just trivia. Invasive species control is always expensive, and you only get the resources to launch a full-court press against a plant or animal — like the hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the last six decades to get sea lamprey populations under control — on the rare and shining occasion when everyone in power agrees on what “harm” is.

 
gardener
Posts: 1096
Location: Western Washington
288
duck forest garden personal care rabbit bee homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sudden oak death syndrome is ravaging native plants here (including rhododendron, evergreen huckleberry, etc). Yet people continue planting oaks. It makes me sad that they're wasting time, money, labor, and water on it. Sudden oak death syndrome is spreading in Europe too.

There are seventy kids in my school district who go hungry every weekend. I sure wish people were planting walnuts and chestnuts instead of oaks that will fail. If it's not in your area in the Pacific Northwest it soon will be.
 
pollinator
Posts: 596
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
159
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

James Landreth wrote:Sudden oak death syndrome is ravaging native plants here (including rhododendron, evergreen huckleberry, etc). Yet people continue planting oaks. It makes me sad that they're wasting time, money, labor, and water on it. Sudden oak death syndrome is spreading in Europe too.

There are seventy kids in my school district who go hungry every weekend. I sure wish people were planting walnuts and chestnuts instead of oaks that will fail. If it's not in your area in the Pacific Northwest it soon will be.



At this point lets see I "can't" plant evergreens because of pine beetle and other problems,  I can't plant elm because of dutch elm disease.  I can't plant apples(except the few resistant ones because of fire blight and other problems)  ash=borers, locust = borers,  maple =  , walnut has butternut canker and thousands canker killing them as well as several versions of blight.  Just looked it up and chestnut blight is hurting those trees too.  Basically by your criteria we should narrow our trees grown down to russian olive, salt cedar and chinese elm as they are the only true survivors.  At this point I think a better answer for those with enough land is simply to grow a little bit of everything and hope something survives.

As for kids going hungry doesn't your school run a back pack program?
 
pollinator
Posts: 364
Location: East tn
98
hugelkultur foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Syndrome eh. ?

Take some bark samples. Test for aluminum levels.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1008
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
254
2
hugelkultur dog forest garden solar wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my opinion, it seems Doug fir is growing in many places because it is the best adapted plant for that spot. I am agains Monocrop fir tree farms as much as corn, but equating those tree plantations to native old growth forests is as absurd as comparing a monocrop cornfield to a prairie. Doug fir sequesters more carbon than any deciduous plant could (up there with redwood as the fastest in the world, 10x tropical rainforest) weeps fertility through the soil it produces with the largest diversity of fungal associates of any tree in North America, and it produces a great warm microclimate on its south side for sun loving plants. I respect Paul’s great contributions to permaculture and many innovative ideas, but this is a point I cannot agree upon, but to each their own.
 
Posts: 57
Location: PA, USA Zone 7a
39
kids forest garden books chicken cooking bee
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm reviving this thread because the topic's fascinating to me. And I didn't want to take over another thread about getting rid of pampas grass to talk about a lot of discussion points that are already taking place here. I like taking the ecological point of view when it comes to invasive species. As an observer, avid reader, and science teacher, I take the stance that they're not good or bad.

Repeating some of the previous responses here--it's curious that for every one invasive poster child that's reviled and accused of potential world domination, there's a dozen more that go relatively unnoticed or even loved (some wisteria and lily of the valley, in my neck of the woods). I think in some cases it has to do with their niche, what their role is in their native range, and what they do when that niche presents itself for the filling. I’m talking about the invasive plants that take over disturbed land that a lot of people are likely to see, along highways and roadsides, in little snippets of land between roadways, in small parks surrounded by houses in dense neighborhoods--they get a lot of the press. A lot of the “bad guys" are the pioneers that are really good at gaining footholds in disturbed (land that has significant changes in nutrient retention or biomass, e.g.) or fragmented ecosystems or simply places where nothing is growing. Like garlic mustard in my area--you would think it's on a rampage judging by some people's descriptions and responses to it. To my eye, it's not--it's growing on roadsides and under pine trees (and it's growing in a bare patch of yard where I hacked down some barberry--ironic), and it happens to make a delicious pesto. Even native pioneers are labeled “invasive” by farmers and homeowners--but just because it “invades” the backyard or cornfield or apple orchard doesn’t make it a bad guy. The land has been disturbed--this is nature’s response.

Like the pampas grass argument--the meadow being invaded in the example I was shown doesn’t look like a meadow to me. It’s a clearing at the end of a sliver of woodland/shrubland hedged in by thousands of houses and buildings and streets in a large suburb of San Francisco. That does not constitute an ecosystem disturbance by an invasive species (it’s in a small city) because that ecosystem is seriously fragmented--native grasses in wild places are established along a timeline of natural succession, and in natural succession all those factors like biomass and primary production and soil properties are changing from one stage to the next. If you want something different to grow other than pampas grass, let it grow and die and change the niche parameters so something different will thrive (probably the trees that are growing there in the middle of the sliver).

I taught in northern CA about invasive species in biology class and discussed pampas grass a lot in that unit. I was reminded of the first attempt to reign in pampas in the other thread--how a lot of people took it upon themselves to spray the grass that had started growing on canyon soil disturbed by loggers that was eroding away. Many kids asked why that was bad--why not let the pioneers settle and stop the erosion? I silently agreed with them in that debate. They’re (pioneers) the first line of succession, and in succession there is no one way to reach the climax community. The invasive plant isn’t “exploiting” because only predators and parasites exploit in ecological terms--they live at the expense of others; the invasive plant is competing with native plants for the resources in its niche. In interspecific competition, whether between native species or native and invasive species, one species inevitably outcompetes the other (lots of times the invasive isn’t competing with anything because there’s nothing to compete with in some disturbed areas). Interactions may or may not be redefined, niches may or may not be affected. If they are, it just means that the change may lead to divergence in the morphology of competing species--natural selection. Evolution. Wow, what a mouthful. Not good or bad, just par for the course, because even though a landscape may seem eternal, it’s not. It’s always changing--just on a much different timescale than we’re capable of perceiving most of the time.

A lot of the students ended up asking if we humans were an invasive species--a fair question. And unlike pampas grass, which grows according to its growth habit in places that accommodate that habit, humans actually change their environment. Pampas still “plays by the rules,” just like all other plants, even though it’s a fairly new introduced player on the field; humans are players but they're also capable of changing the entire field.

Just one point of view. Now I have to get myself back outside and cut back some damn Rosa multiflora ;)
 
Posts: 1
2
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know that most ecologists and botanists would never agree that we can live without non-native species.  The argument is for the continued preservation and restoration of diversity for the sake of strength in numbers and health of ecosystems.  Introduction of many of the non-native species is usually not a problem.  But when it is, it is (Chestnut blight, Reed Canary Grass, Eurasian Phragmites, Dutch Elm Disease and many more. If you take the long look at the overall picture, you are correct, adaptation and evolution will occur. Unfortunately, the issue lies in the rapidity and viralness of human kinds devastation.  This is has led us into a great extinction period.  And your right.  This happens every so often on the planet and regeneration occurs.  In the meantime, over the next ten thousand  to 100,000 years, our offspring will live in a world that knows nothing about things as charismatic as the Panda or things as hidden as the nearly 20 orchids that live in my county of Wisconsin. If your advocating that Ecologist quit being so hard lined about the importance and role of native plants in the world, I personally think you are fighting the wrong fight and should recognize that ecological systems stay healthy through evolved diversification and the application of non natives to a system and removal of native species from a system often times leads to a faulty system where natural processes don't have the resilience and benefits they once did.  

I am not advocating for a hard line on native plants.  However, the recognition that diversity and health of the natural system is dependent on the diversity of that habitat, then you must realize that a habitats health is dependent on its own diversity.  Given that, finding plants that play by the rules of the ecosystems that you live in, so that they don't become over bearing and inhospitable to others within there environment (Corn, Squash, Kale and so many others) vs planting plants that usurp whole ecosystems (Eurasian buckthorn, Reed Canary Grass, Siberian elm and the list goes on) would be a much better approach.  I advocate for thinking hard about what species you are bringing on to your property. Generally things that don't spread.  Multiflora rose is a good example.  Yes this species can be used for vitamin C and can be a good hedgerow to keep in animals but is it really necessary when you could use the native hawthorn.  Hopefully this is an example we can agree on but there are many more.  

On our farm we are using natives as pasture plants on our intensive managed grazing operation.  Many of these species developed with grazing regiments and have insanely large root systems and the seed can be sold for a good price.  Those root systems help with the biodiversity of the soil and the retention of water. Beyond that we are able to have diverse forage for goats, sheep, horses and cows that holds most if not all of the nurtrients, gut biology and minerals that our animals need.  
Look at what gabe brown is doing out west with his native pastures...  Permaculture is our Jam but Ecological health is our Bread
gift
 
10 Podcast Review of the book Just Enough by Azby Brown
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic