Much Ado About Native Plants

I follow a great collection of bloggers on a site called Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.  They all post about some aspect of native plants and the wildlife that they attract.  This is something I am very supportive of, and something I even post about myself quite a bit.

I was, however, a bit startled, to read one post that had a fabulous collection of plants native to my own state of Connecticut and a list of resources for finding more plants.  It wasn’t so much the post that startled me but the comment at the end that read something like “don’t ever let anyone tell you that such-and-such a plant is native to Connecticut.”

Actually the plants she was discussing are native–just not to Connecticut.  They may approach within several miles of our borders in the wild, and to read some of the comments–it may be our deer population that is “exterminating” them, or making them extinct as natives in our state.

This just points to a  problem with native plants–similar to the problem I have discussed several times in the “what is organic” discussion.

I will happily plant coneflowers (echinacea species) and black-eyed susans (rudbeckia species) all day long and call them native plants.  Do I realize they are not native to Connecticut?  Of course.  I’d never mistake Connecticut for the tall and short grass prairies of the midwest.  Do my wildlife seem to care?  Not a bit!

Where I draw the line (and we all draw lines, don’t we?) is that I don’t plant those overly double species of coneflowers that do not resemble the straight species much.  I’m not sure wildlife can recognize or even get much nectar from those, so what’s the point?

I even have plenty of non-natives in the garden–one has to, doesn’t one, when one is a test gardener for a major grower?  And guess what?  I won’t pretend that the non-natives are as valuable to wildlife as the natives are–Douglas Tallamy’s book has convinced me that when I buy plants, I should only buy natives.

However, I do see plenty of non-discerning pollinators in my yard and I’m not sure what to make of that. But while I have at least 40% natives, if not more,  my yard is full of old established trees and shrubs, most of which I did not plant.  While I’m fortunate that some of them are native, I see no reason to cut down and destroy mature plantings simply because they are not native–unless, of course, they are invasive.

So I’ll leave it to the experts to figure why my pollinators are also seeking out hydrangeas and Proven Winners™ landscape roses and the like.  I’ll just take the photos and muse on it, on occasion.

3 thoughts on “Much Ado About Native Plants

  1. Bridget July 20, 2012 / 8:56 am

    Like everything else I think people can become a bit obsessed with planting only native plants. I like you, have a mix, insects don’t mind a bit.

    • gardendaze July 20, 2012 / 10:09 am

      I find it so interesting that the insects don’t seem to mind the non-natives. We have a very respected professor over here who’s written a wonderful book–I refer to it in the post–and he’s done studies showing that insects prefer native. But in my own yard the honeybees are all over the lavender and the catmint. Perhaps it’s because they’re not native insects–but the native bumblebees are right there with them. Very confusing. And everything–from the tiniest bees to those huge hulking wasps–seems to love the hydrangeas (as do I of course). As I said, I just observe and report.

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