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the dark side of native plant enthusiasm

Posts: 46
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
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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?
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Location: 6a
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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)

master pollinator
Posts: 10946
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Inspiring video from Geoff Lawton: "Native Versus Exotic Species"  

garden master
Posts: 2480
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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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.

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Location: Western Washington
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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.
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