Dualing Dogwoods, and more Squirmishes over the Origin of Plants

John Peter Thompson of the Behnkes Nursery
family wrote to me that he’d noticed a flurry of listserv excitement
lately about the "supposed invasiveness" of flowering cherries.

did an in-depth on-line mini research project and think your readers
might like the varietal listings and references, and note that I cannot
find substantiated information on the invasiveness of cherries with the
exception of reported sighting in the Potomac Gorge of the autumn

Here’s the link
to John Peter’s post.  Even if the varietal listings are too
plant-geeky for you, his introductory discussion of the current messy
state of definitions is a good one.  I should add that he’s rather a
big-shot in the world of Invasive Species Councils, both nationally and
at the state level.


And Kathy Jentz sent me this tidbit from a Native Plants Yahoo group:

This is a great thread!  One of my pet peeves has become being a party-pooper,
essentially, about native plant sales.  "Native" is not well-defined,
much like "natural" processed foods in the grocery store.  At many
native plant sales I have been to, I would say 90% of the plants for
sale are not what I would call "native": They are native cultivars or are native to the west coast, for example, and not native to the region/physiographic province where the sale is held.  And I have seen a lot of mislabeled plants, as well. 

I think native cultivars
(or native hybrids mass-produced by people, if that’s what some would
rather call them) should be labeled as such.  And if you are going to
sell your wares as native, then you should state the USDA region of
your seed/root stock source.  Otherwise, the "native" plants are no
better than snake oil, in my mind.

God knows I agree
with this writer’s complaint about plants native to somewhere else in
the U.S. being sold as "native."  But unless the goal is preservation
of an endangered species, I don’t get the objection to cultivars, which
often perform better in the disturbed, nonnative soil that most of us
have to call our gardens.


  1. You ranters are my heros! I was so delighted when I found your website (I forget through which happy circumstantial link now, but possibly This Garden Is Illegal). Thank you so mcuh for telling it like it is, and for your manifesto above; especially the part about being bored with perfect magazine gardens.You’re welcome to visit ours, which is a hodgepodge of imperfections–and we love it.

    Rant on!

    cheers, jodi in Nova Scotia

  2. As a big fan and participant of ornamental horticulture I shudder to think what would happen if laws are passed to sell only native plants. No more lilacs, no more apple trees, to mention only a few. Monocultural plantings have shown what can happen to both native and non-natives with the unhappy circumstances of Elm disease, Ireland’s potato problems and the demise of the great woodlands of the American Chestnut. Diseases and insect plagues can happen anywhere, anytime. Bio-diversity is important! I believe in moderation in all things…except perennials and wine!

  3. I love the idea of native plants.Plants that have evolved in the conditions it inhabits along with the wildlife present.So that is mostly want I plant these days.
    I have been happy with the results

    Many plants have a very wide range and adapt quickly to slight changes in environment.
    Others do not do well in human habitats. The dogwood Cornus florida is one of these plants.

    If all gardeners give up on native dogwoods and plant something else it may in the long run be best for the tree. Stressed trees are certainly first to succumb to disease.
    BUT…our native dogwood is one of springs most beautiful sites in the understory of woodlands where it still grows freely and I fervently hope it survives though I never get to grow one in my own backyard.

  4. Yeah, but kousas are just, well, icky. The flowers come after the leaves and don’t give nearly the show. An even bigger problem is the structure which just can’t approach the graceful layered tiers of c. florida (or c. alternifolia which, alas, really doesn’t thrive in our hot, humid summers). Plus, don’t I recall reading somewhere relatively recently that the anthracnose plague may be traceable to the kousas? Or maybe I just dreamt that up as another reason to dislike them.

    When oh when are we diehards going to see the anthracnose resistent strains of c. florida that have been trumpeted for several years in the hort lit (ie ‘Appalachian Spring’ etc.) appear in the retail trade?

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