One of the questions native enthusiasts are asking of everyone, “Will you plant milkweed”?
If returning areas to native flora and fauna, what things should one consider? We looked at this a bit in Whose Got the Blues? Native or Non-Native.
First, what is a native plant?
As defined by the USDA, “Native species” means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.
Questions to Consider
- Is it even possible in a nature that is all about change to have an exclusively native plant habitat?
- What is considered introduction and as to when?
- Can plants grown hundreds of years ago find conditions suitable with the seemingly changing effects of climate change? Can we restore native plants where they are no longer adapted?
- Do birds and insects adapt when confronted with hardship or do they seek out more favorable conditions?
- Are humans more the problem than any other factor of change, even by precipitating change?
- Should non-native plants be studied for benefit to a habitat BEFORE removal? Most restoration projects seemingly focus entirely on the native plant with less concern to the animals that inhabitant the area of study. Plant and they will come. Plant and some will leave. Seems simplistic.
- Why is it that natural, restored habitats touted to be sustainable often seem to have to be perpetually managed? If historical prairies were man-made initially, how is it even possible to restore those “original” habitats?
- Why is it that working habitats need to be completely destroyed to make more room for native plants?
- Is it worth the money sunk into many of these projects that do not produce empirical results?
- Is it refutable at all that insects prefer native plants?
Each question would make an interesting post. The funny thing about wildlife, they seem to make do. But the question always is how do we want to see wildlife? Like this?
Or this image below? Some things will always be beyond what humans are willing to do to make places native habitat. The tower above happens to be in a nature preserve. We see this on many occasions.
Is habitat all about native plants? For instance, many gardens don’t have the native soils of woodlands and their exposure may not favor many of the woodland natives found today. Is it not more prudent assessing species based on what they do rather than from where they come?
I know myself I think of quite a few non-native plants as natives. I have seen them in meadows since I was a kid. Queen Anne’s Lace, White Clover and Dandelion are considered naturalized. What a nice welcoming term. If it hinders land management practices, does it become invasive instead? Seems so.
I think what all this study is really missing is that there is too many uncertain factors playing in on the results to either side’s findings, climate change being one, and humans themselves being the other. There are just too many of us with too many detrimental actions, the majority of whom just do not care. We will always put ourselves first.
Animals and plants that are native can become excessive in a habitat too. They are termed “aggressive”. This also alters the ability of other native creatures to live and grow. It can be overlooked by those restoring a habit, returning it to “like it was meant to be”, especially when unwilling to return all species that once kept a habitat in check. What determines what it “is meant to be,” is nature.
It seems that some native studies only happen with the objective to prove some plant objectionable, they just keep looking until something negative is found. It seems more prudent not to remove plants providing insects and birds food and shelter, no matter whether native or non-native. There will always be organisms that lose if a habitat is taken back to some arbitrary time in history.
I enjoy having a garden filled with wildlife and make no apologies for having named cultivars of many native species. I make no apologies for having non-natives either. If the insects and birds use them, that is all that matters, at least to me that is. There will always be those with a different view.
I make a point to watch, listen and learn in my garden.
What if every landowner had a portion of their property like shown below? That would be great for wildlife, but it is just not feasible for most.
Having a garden of any size is a luxury in many parts of the world. Having preserved land as parks and forests are not found everywhere. In some places, the forest might be cut to heat a home, a field plowed to grow food, and the wildlife might be sacrificed to feed the family. It is all relative to circumstance, culture, and location, and coincidentally, how it was hundreds of years ago. Can we go back ourselves?
No doubt restoring native landscapes is a difficult path to travel. I can support restoration efforts, they just need to carefully consider more than the one plant they seek to remove.
There were studies saying honeybees would effectively replace native bees. History did not support that. Now there are studies on native bees replacing lost honeybees. And speaking of bees…
Should it be eliminated? Depends on who you ask and what organism they want to protect.
Appears that it is not only bees that like it either.
Knapweed is a problem so what gets done? Well they bring in an insect and populations are under control.
Knapweed is not the only invasive plant to tempt beekeepers. Beekeepers at one time were even encouraged to plant purple loosestrife to provide honeybees with flowers to visit late in the season. It also opened up wetlands to foraging since most wet meadows are considered unproductive for foraging bees. But is it ripe for removal when a plant clogs wetland waterways and displaces native plants and animals? Such a tricky dilemma when one sees bees utilizing a plant late in the season.
Bottom line…Here’s a novel idea, let’s just not asphalt over any more natural habitats, that itself might make a big difference. Think bigger in that more habitats need to be created not always destroyed. It is not JUST the plants in them, they need to be there in the first place. Maybe we just make better decisions as we move forward.