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 rare plant 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 some 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, to start new local populations in similar microhabitats, from that first generation in decades, in that area, of Collomia heterophyllas, there may not have been enough sun over that ground for another generation of those locally rare plants to germinate, flower, and set more seed.
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