Many of us now think of native plants as the good ones, so shouldn’t we plant more of them? But there may be one problem with this, the “we plant”. If a plant is planted by a human, can we call it “wild”? If an area is filled with plants that humans planted can we call it a “natural area”? What is the definition of “natural”? Isn’t it something that came to be, without being made or altered by humans, at least by those of us of the post-agricultural culture? Wasn’t “agriculture”, humans clearing of land of species they didn’t want, followed by them planting species they did want, the beginning of the end of nature itself, and the beginning of the decline of the diversity of our local communities of native plants, and the decline of the communities of animals and fungi that they were co-adapted with?
Consider this case of a plant that is rare for the Seattle area, Collomia heterophylla – the Varied Leaf Collomia (which I have dubbed “Fuzzy Little Collomia”). This annual plant hadn’t been recorded in the Seattle area for some decades when I found some growing in West Seattle’s Orchard St Ravine in about 2003, after we had removed some Himalayan Blackberries from above the soil where their seeds were. They were waiting for some unknown number of years for enough sun to spur germination.
After I found those “Fuzzy Little Collomias”, those doing native plantings started covering the ground with wood chips, and the species of trees and shrubs they considered “native” and were readily available to those doing the plantings. If I hadn’t moved seed from what may have been the first local generation in decades of Fuzzy Little Collomias, the wood chips, and the shade from the planted trees and shrubs, may have prevented another generation of Collomias from germinating in at least the near future. But since I moved seed from that one generation of Collomias that did get the sun they needed to germinate, I was able to start new local Collomia populations, after I found some promising similar microhabitats where I brought their seed or seedlings. I had helped spread this species in my area again, while recovering the locally adapted gene stock that might have otherwise been lost.
If instead of clearing areas of weedy invasive plants then covering that surface area of ground with native plants species that we can easily find (not to mention covering the surface area with wood chips that discourage most new wild growth), why not focus on clearing weeds away from our least common remaining wild and native plants, in our best remaining natural areas, and let those wild native plants cover that adjacent surface area, while watching what additional native plants come in on their own that we didn’t know might move in or sprout up. We would then be assisting Mother Nature with her planting, Continue reading