How to talk to gardeners about natives and “invasives”


by Susan
Readers might have noticed a touch of defensiveness on my part about growing what I call "so-called alien" plants, even a few that have been fingered as threatening the native ones somehow, somewhere (e.g. I never ripped out the ivy on my property; just keep it in bounds and out of trees).  I got that way because as a local hort club prez and writer I’ve had many visitors in my garden and been subjected to attacks about various plants that visitors disapprove of, and other gardeners who opened their gardens to our members at my urging have been treated just as badly, to my horror and embarrassment.  And sometimes I think I’m the ONLY gardener who doesn’t like being treated like I’m GulfMobil or Monsanto for growing plants that others disapprove of, presumably because my town is WAAAAAY off the charts political (to the left), enough to make lots of diehard lefties like myself feel like moderates.

But then we ran a review of the latest native plant advocacy book and here’s what some commenters had to say:

ONe native plant advocate (firefly). "I’ve said lots of times that Tithonia grandiflora, which is
not native to Maine, does triple duty when it comes to attracting and
feeding wildlife — bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, finches and
cardinals all feed on it at various times in its life cycle. That’s one exotic I’ll never stop growing if I can help it."

From Layanee: "The ‘abolitionists’ forget one big factor and that is the
presence of human beings in the landscape. Of course ‘thinking’ beings
are going to affect the environment for both good and bad but plant
diversity makes life that much more interesting and, for the most part,

From Common Weeder: "I agree that there should be moderation in all things, and think that
native plant purists who despise the rest of us don’t do their cause
any favors.





Me: "

appreciate Tallamy’s emphasis on wildlife and am totally on board with
using my land in a way that’s beneficial to them. I just don’t buy that
growing so-called aliens is inherently harmful, as Tallamy argues it
is. Alloting a few square feet to a plant like super-sustainable and
always-covered-with-bees sedums is harmful? Compared to what? Unlike
most Americans, who contribute bupkis to wildlife or biodiversity, most
avid gardeners FILL their gardens with a wide variety of plants from a
wide variety of places. And often it’s the joy of "getting creative"
that motivates us to do all that. And let’s not forget what our
gardening does to heal the soil, clean the air, soak up stormwater, and
make us more committed to nature with every stab of our trowel."

Derviss:  In the words of Rodney King,
‘can’t we all just get along in the horticultural world?’

What, are we right wing horticulturists now ?
" All you alien plants go back where you came from and take your nutritional values with you." sheesh.
aliens indeed.  what’s next, horticultural immigration rights ?

Brent takes issue with this quote by TAllamy: "Every time we use an alien plant when we could have used a native, biodiversity is lost"


Janet Marinelli at hte Brooklyn Botanic Garden wrote "Is Native-Plant Gardening LInked to Fascism?

in response to Michael POllan’s screed "Against Nativism"

And so I think we should avoid the terms "alien plant" and "invasive alien."
My Webster’s defines "alien" as follows: "belonging or relating to another
person or place—strange…different in nature or character." When we use
these terms, we not only risk fanning the flames of xenophobia but also miss
the point. The crux of the invasive plant problem, as Neil Diboll pointed out,
"isn’t point of origin but rather behavior"—that is, the problems that
invasives cause for other plants and animals.

I’d venture to say that someday nativeness won’t be much of an issue at all.
Someday we’ll know enough about ecology to be able to create totally new plant
communities, combining species from around the globe, that add to, rather than
subtract from, the planet’s wonderful variety of life forms. Even though I am
convinced of the need for ecological restoration in the home garden as well as
the larger landscape, I don’t think people will—or should—be content
to simply re-create the plant communities of the past.