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food forest do you plant natives or exotics?

 
faith alkire
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Hi ok I have been reading a lot of the different things about there food forest and i keep reading about people having a lot of their trees fruit trees . now i like apples and pears as much as the next gal but in North America there were not a lot of fruit trees present before the euopeans so I was wondering are there people trying to do their food forest with mainly native plants? or are they using adapted exotics. i figure what ever works for you is what you should do but i just wanted to here what others were doing and what peoples opinions were on how you should do it.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Let me chime in with my own brand of heresy here -- I think natives are overrated and there is no problem with exotics. After all, every flowering plant is an "exotic" because when you go back 140 million years, the first flowering plants evolved in central China and spread from there.

Yes, I've heard the alarming stories. I live in the South, you know, that place that was supposed to have been taken over and eaten by kudzu. Well, there is no kudzu problem in the South, nothing that herds of goats can't keep under control.

Now an argument for planting "exotics" -- climate change. Climate zone 7 is almost banished from Georgia, and soon the majority of the state will be climate zone 9. Don't even try to cultivate a microclimate where you can have rhubarb and gooseberries, it's not going to work. You need to adapt and plant trees for what the climate is predicted to be by the models in another 20 years. I have 3 citrus trees that I put a greenhouse around in the winter. In another 20 years, I may not have to put up the greenhouse at all. If you read the horticultural bulletins on loquat, it says that they can't be expected to bear fruit north of Jacksonville, FL (too cold). Last winter they bore fruit here in Augusta and up the road in Columbia, SC.

Besides the changing temperature zones, precipitation patterns are changing. More heavy rains and flooding and more droughts. To anticipate this, you need to select drought tolerant trees as well as use any water catchment and hugelkultur tricks you can when planting them.

I'd say what's more important that native or exotic is diversity. The more diversity your food forest has, the better it will adapt to the climate changes in store.
 
Alex Brands
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I don't hesitate to plant non-native plants in my garden. Restricting yourself to natives is very limiting IMO. Of course, there are some great ones......I've got pawpaws and American persimmon, and I would recommend those to anyone. I also have Asian and European pear, hardy kiwi, Asian persimmon. With the exception of the kiwi, the bees love them. If I had more room, I'd plant jujube Among the herbaceous plants, I don't know where many of them come from. I know sweet cicely is native to Europe, but it is useful as a nectary plant, and my son found a black swallowtail caterpillar on one this spring. Russian comfrey is quite popular with the bumblebees. Lemon balm is from Europe, but supports a lot of the native insects as well.

It's interesting how many "native" enthusiasts are surprised to learn that their apple, pear and peach trees are not "native"!

Alex
 
Sean Banks
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It's okay in my opinion to plant exotics if one is to use them for food or medicine...other than that the answer would be no. Although the definition of native is somewhat vague...one does not have to be genius to see that so called natives are much more attractive to beneficial insects and animals. These plants have coevolved with other organisms and have developed special symbiotic relationships with them. Most natives have a niche or "job" in their environment, maintaining the delicate balance that exists. When exotics became invasive they throw off the balance and the environment as a whole plunges into chaos. For the environment to became stable again the exotic organism would have to find its own niche...this would only happen under evolutionary circumstances i.e. chance mutation.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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There are native crab apples, native cherries, native grapes, native brambles etc. and pears, peaches, etc. are in the same family, so they're really just like improved variations on the native trees - larger, better tasting fruit for human consumption. Planting the real native varieties as well will often distract the birds and squirrels from your fruit as the smaller, more bitter native versions are often more nutrient dense or healthful, tho less sweet and juicy. There are other native species that are rarely grown that are delicious - like aronia and juneberries. They are very hardy in most of the US because they are so well adapted so you get more trouble-free crops.
 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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I am going to have to agree with John on this one. I live next to lake Michigan, where salmon fishing has been a celebrated past time for 150 years or so even though before that there were no salmon in the great lakes. Sparrows were brought over by some english guy who was homesick. Millions of plants (along with the chestnut blight) were brought over from asia to celebrate our centennial here in the USA in 1876; many of which are naturalized now. Things are so mixed up these days that I believe efforts to only plant natives are pretty much pointless. The natural world is constantly changing, and that is perfectly natural. The fact that we are often the vectors of that change is also just that way things work. Often it is not intentional, but people tend to have a hard time admitting they are being manipulated by a plant.

I'm not even sure what "native species" really means anyway. Seriously, does anyone have a working definition?
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Consider for a moment that humankind is not native to the Americas With that in mind, we can plant whatever the heck we want, no?

I have to chuckle about the use of "invasive" - look at us - there is no organism on the planet that can match humans for invasiveness.

I look at a food forest as a human construct for human needs and intend to plan accordingly. I'll plant what I think will best provide for my needs in my localized environment, and I'll try to make it as sustainable as possible.

Not going to try and have stuff that can't survive on its own where I am, but also will not worry about whether a given plant started out in the area or not.

Will it grow readily for me in this location and do I get a useful return from it? Those are my criteria, with deciding factors between similar choices being things like "how long until I get a return from it?"
 
Andi Houston
Posts: 15
Location: Gainesville, FL
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"Native" around here is defined as "here before the Europeans arrived". It's an arbitrary definition like all the others but at least there's a clear boundary. I think the native vs. exotic thing all comes down to what you want out of your land and how you interpret the principles of permaculture design. For example: when I moved here last year, my suburban property had relatively little bio-diversity and very poor soil. One of my main goals has been to increase diversity in all living things, with a special emphasis on building humus and building soil. One of the first things I did was start planting a butterfly bed full of native plants to "use and value diversity"- there were few butterfly host plants and very few native bee/wasp nectaring plants in my yard, therefore no butterflies and few bees. If I wanted butterflies and bees, I needed to plant not just "butterfly porn" (nectaring plants like buddleia) but hosts for caterpillars... and most of those around here are natives. So I planted milkweeds and cassias and beach sunflowers and ironweed... AND buddleia and parsley and dill. And now there's butterflies, native bees and wasps everywhere. I see new species constantly.

Now, I also plant LOTS of exotics... I've planted a dozen kinds of fruit trees alone. I see it as a question of balance, and if I am looking at natural ecosystems for my inspiration, then I am looking at mixtures of native and exotic plants... but mostly natives.

 
faith alkire
Posts: 13
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I have no plan to stick to only natives as I like the exotics a little to much, but i love hearing the opinions on it. it is a good thing to think about though when doing one i think what does one do to a sustain there family and the ecosystem at the same time. I admit my plan includes a lot of diversity because with out it we all get board. though yes it does seem to surprise a lot of people to know that some plants are not natives.
 
A Philipsen
Posts: 58
Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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I was wondering are there people trying to do their food forest with mainly native plants? or are they using adapted exotics.
Yes. Western Oregon has a very wet season and a very dry season and there aren't many plants that can handle saturated soils and standing water in the winter, then go to bone dry in the summer that aren't native to our climate. So the parts that are so far from the house that I know they won't get attention, mostly have natives. However, many of the native plants just don't taste that great and I like diversity, so I squeeze in lots of non-natives in the areas that have good drainage and are close enough to keep an eye on.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1271
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I am looking for exotics, but whose "native climate" is suiting mine.
I am careful with the air humidity, as watering will not give me any hot humid air!

I am careful not to be too much on the border. For example, a neighbour's walnut grows great without irrigation, but with no winter chill -> no fruit!
Peaches? They are not good and wormy.
Raspberry?
Great for harvesting leaves and having a new weed coming out far away...
And one raspberry every few days...
 
Jose Reymondez
Posts: 137
Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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I´ve been thinking a lot about this. I live in an area where I think we are not going to have enough chill hours for a lot of typical temperate fruit trees, but I am not warm enough to rely only on subtropical trees either.

Anyone know of temperatre fruit tree varieties that require very few chill hours or none at all? We already grow citrus with no problem.
 
Kelby Taylor
Posts: 47
Location: SE Pennsylvania, USA
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On a long enough timeline, everything can viewed as invasive. I think of the mostly human introduction of new species around the world as accelerated evolution.

Horticulturally speaking, native typically means the plant occurs in an area without any human intervention (in North America this could be thought of as pre-European, however evidence supports the theory that Native Americans brought plants from Asia/Polynesia with them millenia ago).

When it comes to choosing plants, I personally try to pick natives whenever possible in order to support local insect and other fauna. This primarily is for ornamentals, since the selection of (conventional) native crops is limited to some nuts, gooseberries, pawpaws, blueberries, and brambles. You can stretch it to include persimmons, serviceberries, and more for less common items. To have a varied food forest or permaculture system, you will have to include 'exotics' to some degree. I think the best way is choose responsibly for natives and exotics. Avoid selecting plants that will need immense amounts of inputs to maintain year after year (water loving plants in dry climates, for example).

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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I'm surrounded by thousands of acres of native plants that are managed in favor of one of them. Douglas fir is totally dominant in managed forests in this area. I am preventing them from taking over my place. I have a few big specimens that raptors use as perches. These will be left, but many other firs will be harvested and not replaced. I cut a few hundred this week, mostly 1 - 3 inch specimens and about 20 that were in the range of 5 - 8 inches diameter.

I'm thus favoring fast growing hardwoods that won't spread forest fire and won't acidify the soil. One big advantage to this strategy is that it gives lots of good building wood from the firs now, followed by lots of broad leafed maple which I'll sell milled and dried. Maples that were the size of my wrist 10 years ago are now 8 inches and will soon be ready to coppice.

I want to grow hundreds of other exotics including trees, bushes and smaller stuff. The native flora provides little to eat and none of them have become common food crops due to low yield and low consumer demand. There are certain plants such as English ivy and morning glory that I'll never bring to the property. I'm also avoiding grasses and other small seeded stuff that might run rampant along the dry hillside.

 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
Raspberry?
Great for harvesting leaves and having a new weed coming out far away...
And one raspberry every few days...


Do you have blackberries in the Canaries? A little tougher than raspberries, both in flavor, thorns and most importantly a fair degree of drought tolerance. They are naturalized here and there around SoCal, not sure if they are native. We had one planted courtesy of the birds pooping out seeds and are harvesting a handful every day now. Judging by the growth of new canes, the harvest should be tripled next summer.

As for the original question - most the edibles at our place are exotics, while many of the support species (n fixers, mulch & bee forages) are natives.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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