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Native Plants in a Forest Garden  RSS feed

Posts: 419
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I am coming to the conclusion that it is really important to include at least a few native plants in your forest garden. Mine is about 30% native plants, which I believe form a sort of foundation for all the other life in my forest garden.

Two examples:

1. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
This plant seems to flower forever. Right now they are covered in both fully mature berries and in flowers - I have not seen that in any of my other plants. The bees have been feeding on this plant continuously since early spring. Contrast this with for example my apple trees, which flower for less than 2 weeks. If I had only apple trees, the bees would be happy for 2 weeks, but before and after that they would have to go somewhere else to find food. Many native plants such as snowberry seem to provide food in sync with the needs of the native bees - which makes sense since they lived here together way before I showed up.

2. Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)
Early this spring I noticed that my cascara tree was covered with bees. Upon closer inspection I found that this tree produces a flower about 1/8" diameter, which I had never even noticed before. Apparently the bees love this flower. This tree was blooming about the same time as my apples, but for about 4 weeks.

I also have native food plants, such as stinging nettle (very important for native butterflies), beaked hazelnut, blackcap raspberry, and salmonberry.

I am also inclined to think that there are other things going on between my native plants and the native creatures in my forest garden, including in the soil.

I would guess that since my native plants support many native insects and other native creatures, the natives are pollinating my food plants, and also preying on "pest" insects.

So what do you all think? Do you have native plants in your forest garden? What have you observed?
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I think you're doing it about right. I also live in the PNW, and I also have about 30% natives. I have camas, thimbleberry, salmonberry, spirea, evergreen huckleberry, black cap raspberries, and a few others.
John S
Posts: 786
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have a boat load of native mulberries, also redbuds, pecan, oak, hackberry, and catalpa. These trees grow so well here that sometimes I feel like they are showing my other fruit trees how it's done.

My garden sits between a mature oak and mature pecan so they provide the obvious nut crops for a lot of squirrels, birds, and me, but they also hold a lot of good soil and provide leaf drop each year. I am lucky because these vigorous natives will be producing year after year with no attention from anyone. I am able to get even more benefit when I plant my medicinals and non natives in the good soil around them.

Other than the trees already here, I have added some native perennial sunflowers, sandcherry (prunus pumila), American plum (prunus Americana), echinacea

I think I am about 40 percent native. 40 percent introduced "weeds" and 20 percent exotic herbs and veggies.
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