The Butterfly Effect



This was a hard image to get, as all of the new fritillaries were whirling around like ... well, butterflies!
This was a hard image to get, as all of the new fritillaries were whirling around like … well, butterflies!

For weeks, my garden has been ALIVE with the beating of orange wings! I have Gulf Fritillaries coming at me from every corner of my garden – I think the other day I counted more than 20 – and more are emerging from cocoons every day!

chomp chomp chomp poop poop chomp oops there goes my exoskeleton chomp chomp poop
chomp chomp chomp poop poop chomp oops there goes my exoskeleton chomp chomp poop

I am an ardent collector of passiflora species, and my Passifloras ‘Lavender Lady and edulis are completely chewed up right now, looking shabby and horrid. Why? Because THESE monsters have been chomping on the leaves and getting fat! And they are pooping up a storm. It is hard to imagine how much these babies poop, but I guess when you think about the fact that all they do is eat and molt, the volume of … that stuff … makes perfect sense. It is unseasonably warm (although we in Southern California know that climate change is real – I guess this is just the weather we have now!) so I wonder if that is what is causing this extreme butterfly phenomenon – I have never, in 15 years of growing these vines, seen this much action on them!

I think the Monarch has a great publicity team behind it. Everyone is so concerned about planting the right milkweed so the monarchs will be able to find their way to the traditional monarch fiesta zone in Mexico that they forget about the other beautiful butterflies. There are over 2000 species of butterflies to tempt! Why should all the love go only to the monarchs? I mean I love a monarch, sure, but what about Admirals and Emperors? Snouts and Ladies? Yes, plant milkweed – but plant other things as well! I plant fennel specifically for the Anise Swallowtail – there are native plants that host the larvae, but I can’t harvest fennel seeds from a Tauschia! And I think life without passionflowers, exotic beasts that they are, would be a sad thing, not only because I would miss the incredible floral sculptures that are their blossoms, but also – the dance of the fritillaries is a magical thing to witness.

Once, I was lucky enough to be caught in a “butterfly storm” in the deciduous jungle of the Yucatan, near Merida. I don’t know if I will have a memory that will surpass it – the wonder, the the breathless thrill, the feeling that your heartbeat was being echoed by the tiny wings swirling, diving, and flitting around you … I wish I had the words to impart the glory of that moment. The butterflies were in their element, doing what butterflies do – and we can only witness it by tiptoeing into their worlds and then tiptoeing back out again, stepping very lightly. Let us hope that their native landscape will be preserved, so that we won’t have to argue about what to plant and what they eat and when to plant what they eat. If habitat is preserved, those issues will vanish.

the chrysalis - or pupa- hanging on for dear life from a thread attached to the hook that holds the hinge to my back gate. THAT is determination. And strand silk - they should build bridges from that stuff!
the chrysalis – or pupa- hanging on for dear life from a thread attached to the hook that holds the hinge to my back gate. THAT is determination. And strand silk – they should build bridges from that stuff!

I am NOT anti-native nor am I against feeding wildlife with the native offerings we have, but I find the strong party line is “Natives Only” – and those of us who have been in the trenches for years, gardening organically, planting to attract beneficials and pollinators, know that nature is not that black and white. Life will out. Life adapts. Nature is flexible. The instar of  a butterfly will eat other than a native food source. If that wasn’t the case, evolution wouldn’t really work, as flexibility and adaptability are key for the “survival of the fittest”.  And survival, adaptability, and evolution is what the insect world is particularly good at.

Regular readers of mine know that I am ambivalent about the turning back the clock and trying to re-create native habitats in urban landscapes. So much pressure on the gardener to fix something that they did not break. Climate change has not been caused by people planting the wrong milkweed, or passionflowers attracting a butterfly whose native range has long expanded. Eradication of native landscapes isn’t the fault of the ornamental gardener (GASP!), so I hope we can all take a breath and enjoy the butterflies, no matter what leaf carried them in.

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Ivette Soler


Fasten your seatbelts, Ranters, I hope you like riding rollercoasters! I’m Ivette Soler, a garden designer and writer who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. I have been designing since 1997, working primarily with the subtropical and succulent palette that thrives in my corner of the world. I started my blog, The Germinatrix, in 2004, and I have been enjoying a vibrant dialog with the online garden community ever sine. In 2011, Timber Press published my book “The Edible Front Yard“, in which I make the case for ridding ourselves of thirsty, dull front lawns in favor of beautiful, bountiful gardens that mix food with ornamentals. I am thrilled to be a part of this illustrious and opinionated group, and am looking forward to RANTING with all of you!

Let’s do a little speed-dating so you can get to know me better:

I am a Believer – I know that gardens and gardening can and will make this world a better place.

I am a Maximalist – I believe that more is more and more is better than less!

I am against Horticultural Xenophobia – If you believe that we must eliminate well-chosen exotics from our landscapes in favor of a natives-only palette, we might have words.

I am a Talker – I love to get into it! If you have anything you want to challenge me about, or if you want to dialog about anything I post, please comment away! My love of blogging is rooted in dialoging with a large number of passionate gardeners with diverse opinions. I will rant, and I expect you to RANT BACK

I cast a wide net – This is a big world, and I believe our gardens are more interesting when we open ourselves up to ideas other than those that come to us from the established gardening world. I am inspired by fine art, literature, product design, theatre, fashion … you get the picture. I will often bring in ideas from other areas of culture to our conversations about gardens and the way we garden.

I like exclamation points and sometimes … yes … ALL CAPS – I really talk like this!!!! I can’t help it!!!

I am eager to move the conversation about gardening and the place it has in our lives forward, so hop on, make sure you are strapped in tightly, and LET’S GO!


  1. Wonderful post, Ivette! I especially agree with you when you say that there’s a lot of “pressure on the gardener to fix something that they did not break”. So often it seems to me that whenever a problem arises, whether it’s native v. non-native, food sources for pollinators or “invasive” plants, the home gardener gets blamed for the problem and taxed with the onus of correcting it. And so many people seem convinced that they have the only correct solution, without allowing for the myriad of variables in nature that occur, not only as a matter of course, but from location to location in the country. Everyone needs to take a step back, a deep breath and a long, considered pause before reacting to things.

    • I totally agree with you, Susan – let’s all think first. So many times I feel the pressure to fall in line with an orthodoxy that may not be the answer to everything. I think we need to question whatever claims to be “The Answer To Everything”. Usually that answer is propaganda of some sort. One of the things I love about the garden world and gardening itself is that it can exist outside of the world of the hard and fast rules because gardening is subtle and different for everyone, everywhere they garden. Gardening can function outside of the marketplace, outside of orthodoxy and dogma – it can be a thing that a person discovers for themselves. We can cultivate our own relationships with nature, we can collaborate with nature on our terms. I think it is a sacred relationship, a spirituality, and I tend to look upon those who want to impose boundaries on that personal space with suspicion. I’m all for taking a breath and thinking, and moving forward from your instincts and your personal relationship with your garden. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

      • You said above:
        “I think we need to question whatever claims to be “The Answer To Everything”. Usually that answer is propaganda of some sort.”

        Sing it, sister!
        Also many who claim they have “the only right way” are likewise to be avoided: they will not see anything to the contrary. Example: when my son was just born, four different lactation experts claimed their way was right, and none of them repeated. I went with what worked for us, and put all that advice in the mental trash bin.

    • Totally agree with everything you said. This was a big year for us as I become the mother of twins….twin monarchs that is. It was exciting because the morning they were emerged out of their cacoon, I was there, camera and video camera in hand taping the whole thing! I highly doubt I’ll ever get to experience actually seeing the green cacoon change to gold flicks and then solid gold right to my butterfly friends! It was amazing and I would encourage anyone to try this at home. When we set them free, all our eyes were glistening.

      • It’s pretty awe-inspiring, isn’t it Laura? Seeing such a transformation right in front of you? And I think it is an apt metaphor for what we see in our seasonal process as gardeners. Sigh – butterflies! Just amazing!

  2. Ivette, you said:

    “The instar of a butterfly will eat other than a native food source. If that wasn’t the case, evolution wouldn’t really work, as flexibility and adaptability are key for the “survival of the fittest”. And survival, adaptability, and evolution is what the insect world is particularly good at.”

    I think this topic is more complicated than this.

    Then, you said, “So much pressure on the gardener to fix something that they did not break….Eradication of native landscapes isn’t the fault of the ornamental gardener.”

    But, we all broke the climate. The gardening magazine you buy took a tree and energy to create. The author of the article drove his or her car to the nursery, bought a camera transported by Amazon, ate tofu from Whole Foods packaged in plastic, slept in an air conditioned home.

    My house is small, but it still took up open space. I feel a responsibility to give back to those creatures my house displaced. I plant more natives on my small plot of land than would normally be here because I drive a car, own a camera, eat tofu, and sleep better in an air conditioned home. Actually, these things give me the energy to make my garden even better and more inviting. If you like ornamentals, fine, but for me, the idea of giving back to my fellow riders on this blue dot is what I need. I take a breath, too, but honestly, I prefer to hold my breath when I see something new and exciting find a plant in my yard.

    See Tallamy’s just released study:

    • As for sharing the blame for climate change, I beg to differ. We are all behaving in ways which contribute to it, but we are what blogger RobertScribbler calls “captive consumers”. We can’t escape contributing because our civilization is set up to produce the appearance of wealth, but it’s based on production which borrow from the future. I hadn’t even heard of global warming until I was 50, at the turn of the century, while reading science blogs on the web. I certainly didn’t hear it from TV news or the local newspaper (remember those?).

      Like you, I contribute to it, but I haven’t voted for government policies which contribute to it. I don’t think I’m to blame, and I don’t think you are either.

      • You and I think very similarly Kermit! I am part of a culture that is set up to consume. I consume, hopefully with a thought to ethics and the impact I have on the planet. But my organic gardening habits are not contributing to climate change. My mixed native, drought tolerant garden isn’t breaking our ecosystem. I refuse to be told that I can’t plant something I know works because of an agenda that I find bordering on horticultural xenophobia. Natives, YES – but natives ONLY? I have to say no.

    • Professor Tallamy’s study is contradicted by hundreds of studies, which find that insects are equally likely to eat non-native plants as native plants. A meta-analysis of hundreds of studies of insect-plant interactions published by Annual Review of Entomology reports these findings: “Herbivore densities are lower on invasive plants than on native plants, but there is no evidence that invasive plants overall suffer from less damage inflicted by native herbivores.” Martijn Bezemer, et. al., “Response to Native Insect Communities to Invasive Plants,” Annual Review of Entomology, January 2014.

  3. Marcia – sorry, but I am not entirely won over by Tallamy. I have read just as many studies that refute his findings, although I tend to lean towards supporting a robust native community. Tallamy’s work can inspire many to do great things, but it also inspires people to unplant areas that are thriving ecosystems, albeit non-native ones, in favor of a native ideal that is tied to a point in the past that is long gone. I, too, plant natives – but I plant well adapted exotics as well, happily so. It is just like the air conditioner that you use. You use it. And all the natives you plant will not make up for the fact that you use your ac and drive a car. Just the fact that we are planting with thought and purpose, and grappling with these issues, is a huge leap – I will not ask the gardening population to take on the onus of saving the world through planting only natives. It is a publicity stunt. Natives are a buzzword, a way to sell plants – and it works. It is fashion – and it isn’t bad! But we should recognize it for what it is. I do think that we are making significant progress in understanding our place in the environmental scheme of things, and all of the things we choose to do to make this world better should be applauded. But we should also know that sometimes, we are being caught up in a marketing campaign. Again – I am not saying that natives are bad – I am saying that eschewing all other plants that are non-invasive and well-adapted to your region in favor of natives only is not the way I myself choose to plant, because I believe that nature if far more flexible and adaptive than we are being led to believe. Btw – just because a thing is “in fashion” or “the flavor of the moment” doesn’t mean it is bad. Think of the culinary fad with kale! Kale is delicious and good for you, but you can’t eat only kale. Lots of other foods are nutritious, even though kale is being touted as THE superfood. But I applaud your gardening – I am always on the side of the gardener, as long as they aren’t planting invasives or using pesticides, herbicides, and synthetics! (haha I guess that was ALOT of caveats there!) Thank you for your comment! Good one!

  4. This, indeed, is an interesting topic. I’m not sure that I understand the whole “marketing campaign” thesis. And, I’m sure there is good data to back up the thought that native plants attract those insects that co-evolved with them. Just because I see one species of butterfly flourishing in my garden does not mean I’m host to a healthy biodiverse community.

    Parks and gardens are increasingly valuable spaces for wildlife of all sorts. I read that in Britain, domestic back gardens cover up to a quarter of most urban areas. A study found 70 percent of their flora is foreign. I think some species will adapt, but many more will be lost. I think we should strive to protect native ecosystems, not just applaud novel ecosystems.

    I know we’re not going back to a pristine era. Tolerable suppression of invasives, as opposed to complete eradication can be our goal. But clearly, the data indicates that native plants create a more biodiverse ecosystem. I live on a watershed invaded by aliens. Hopefully, the natives in my yard will spread beyond my yard to the watershed. I know the birds I attract with my birdfeeders, are eating the pokeweed, serviceberry, and black cherry tree berries, just a few of the natives in my yard, and “planting” them on the watershed.

    Following the new field of Conciliation Biology is what I think you are proposing in your post. I’m not sure I’m buying it, but I’m open to it and will continue to follow the research.

    • “But clearly, the data indicates that native plants create a more biodiverse ecosystem.”

      I’m sure that’s true. But what do the data show about my garden, inhabited by a mix of natives and non-natives, compared to the lawns and minimalist shrubbery of all my neighbors?

      • Personally, I think more biodiversity creates more biodiversity. Natives can be invasive as well – it isn’t just exotic aliens that behave like thugs. Well adapted plants are good things, and a badly behaving native is not welcome in my gardens. I’m totally with you on a happily mixed-up garden!

  5. Thanks for considering Conciliation Marcia! Just thinking about how we work forward from where we are, rather than trying to turn back time and climate, is where I stand. And realizing that we, as people on this planet, are a part of nature as well (although the havoc we wreak seems to deny this). Nature is destructive and catastrophic, and wipes out species all on her own, before we were introduced as the dominant species on this planet. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t strive to make the best choices for our planet – whenever I bring up this point someone inevitably says “oh well should we all just throw up our hands and just do whatever!” No, not if we feel a moral and ethical responsibility to our planet. But we are also enlivened by endeavors that fall outside of the wild and native – I, for one, am delighted by gardens that are blatantly artificial and formal. It is a unique expression. I would never do that in my home, but I love the art and impulse of it. To limit the gardener’s expression of passion to a purely native palette would be sad to me. But a native palette is crucial to our moving forward and understanding our stewardship of the planet’s landscape. I hope this makes sense! The marketing of natives seems fairly obvious to me – natives are all the rage. Nurseries are doing a very brisk business in natives and people are reading articles about natives in their Sunday papers. It has an effect. It isn’t a bad thing – the trend could be hybrid tea roses – yikes!!!

  6. Such an interesting discussion! Working much of the time in gardens myself, it has become obvious to me that we are approaching our urban gardens and landscapes as jujitsu matches where we must wrestle, literally to the death, flora, fauna and soil in order to have the look we envision.
    I heartily disagree with the notion that widespread interest in natives is trendy, a fad or marketing and sales driven. I simply don’t see this as the underlying motive of the many people I know who are either professional native plant growers or purist native designers. They don’t see natives as the ticket to riches. That is almost laughable. They feel a rare and pure integrity inherent in what they are doing that doesn’t exist in many other endeavors.
    Most can appreciate a ‘designed’ landscape that is more art than garden, although they likely won’t think that we should carpet our cities and suburbs with environmentally sterile land art.
    I see the trend toward natives, either as some percentage of a planting scheme or as a complete palette, as a natural and necessary course correction because in so many instances we are way off track in our need to control nature without any deep understanding of it as a connected living system.
    I can drive for quite a few miles in my master-planned and intensively managed county and see not a single plant that co-evolved with anything living here. I see lots of mismanaged, compacted, dead soil and sprinklers desperately applying California’s drinking water to tropical shrubs.
    I don’t think it’s marketing to decide that maybe we should stop wrestling and bring back some of the beautiful, garden-worthy natives that were here for millennia before us.
    Truth is, many can’t survive in these intensively managed places we have created, anyway, so in some sense it could be argued that we might as well wrestle with what can survive because it has been bred to.
    We should try to ‘fix’ what we have broken, of course. All change comes from the bottom up. I don’t think anyone would say that it’s ok to eliminate all urban wild animals in favor of domestic pets simply because we have built dog parks – so why is it ok to eliminate wild plants in favor of lab-bred, sterile cultivars simply because we have built landscapes that support them? This is what we have done.
    Seems to me that if you approach the garden as a living system, then you can adorn it as you wish with all the frilly plant jewelry you like, but the basic underlying structure still has to work as a complete living system that at least has a chance to survive on its own if its caretaker vacates for a period of time.

    • I know that there are folk who believe that it’s cruel to have pets, that they should be released into the wild…where they have lost the ability to thrive and survive. I think *that’s* cruel.

      I do my bit for neutering indoor/outdoor mammal pets, as I grew up that way, and can’t imagine letting a bitch or quean produce even one litter, just so kids can experience it. No real thought for the product of the mating…

      • That is a good analogy – to do what we do in a measured way, rather than going all PETA on a thing. Finding a middle path is fairly radical for someone who may have been mowing lawn and planting thirsty invasive exotics all their lives!

    • Hi Jodie! Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
      I don’t disagree with you on most of your points, but I simply don’t see this as an either/or proposition, and that id how many native plants activists see it. I say over and over that I use natives heavily, and think that a native backbone to our landscapes is smart and ethical, but somehow that always escapes people who are very eager to argue with me because I am not a native-only purist. oh, well – I can’t make anyone think any differently than they do if they aren’t willing to entertain that there may be another way to create a landscape that is healthy, balanced, and good for our ecological system other than ripping out everything that is not native and replacing those plants with natives. In that way, yes – it is a dogma that impacts the sales of plants, and the work of designers, at a time whom the nursery industry was at a loss – people seemed to have forgotten gardening for a while and the industry was in a predictable slump after the housing crash. The interest in edibles, drought tolerance, and natives resuscitated many local nurseries and growers – and the smart ones moved to where the interest is. That is – sorry – pretty much the definition of a trend. Again – like I said above – THAT DOES NOT MEAN IT IS BAD. And I have no doubt that those who are passionately proselytizing about natives only in our landscapes believe what they are saying is truth. I, however, tend to think that there is no one way. We need to be diverse, flexible, and adaptable – and personally, I don’t think looking backwards to some pristine “native time” is the entirety of the answer. It is horticultural xenophobia. I believe we move forward with all the healthy, sound, pragmatic tools we have – and native plants are a part of that but certainly not the entirety of it. It is really funny to me that this is so threatening to some people – they come at me with the same kind of ire as if I were saying natives are bad and never to use them. Nowhere did I say I wanted “sterile land art” to blanket the nation, nor am I advocating watering tropical shrubs in Southern California – you are throwing out straw men here. I am simply saying that we have more in our arsenal that just a native palette. Many of the best drought tolerant plants for my climate are not native to here – but I am certainly going to use them – it would be silly to be such a purist that I would cut off my nose to spite my face. I am also going to use the many lovely native plants at my disposal and I will also grow food – much of it non-native. Some people may feel differently, and more power to them. I will never tell someone who loves there natives to stop planting them, duh! I want people who are passionate ornamental gardeners to know that there is another way – that we can still create the design schemes we love while planting with wisdom and the health of the planet in mind. I know what I say seems to be a threat – despite all the caveats I write to assure people that I ALSO USE AND LOVE NATIVES – but it seems that unless you are all in the native-only camp, those in that camp don’t want to hear it. Oh well! More power to you, because I have no doubt you are making your world a better place, and that is totally great. Thanks again, Jodi!

      • A fella once told me that when he was at parties and somebody asked his religion, he would reply “Zen Baptist”. Some folks heard only “Zen”, and some heard only “Baptist”. But, he said, those who heard both were the most interesting to talk to.

  7. Susan! That sounded great but I couldn’t read the full article!!! I have such empathy from just the first paragraph, but of course I don’t want to assume anything about the content of the article. I wish I could read it w/o subscribing – if only they had a system like the NYT has of access to 5 articles before the firewall comes up. But, yes – the ultimate profit in the game goes to the BIG EVIL. Ugh. In fact, thank goodness plant trends that really catch hold come along – those have saved our industry time and time again. It is really sad that the small, local plant growers and independent nurseries never end up seeing a teensy fraction of the profit that the Big Bad does. THAT is a trend I would love to see – more independent nurseries and local growers, and organic companies that aren’t eventually bought by Bayer or Monsanto. I will try to hunt out a copy of the article so I can speak to it in a more informed way – thanks for posting so I can start the hunt! XO

  8. I want to hang out with both people and plants who play well with others. I don’t care which country that came from.

  9. Ivette is on particularly firm ground from a scientific standpoint when using butterflies as an example of how native and non-native plants are equally useful to wildlife.

    Professor Arthur Shapiro is an expert on the butterflies of California. He walked his transects counting butterflies for thirty years before analyzing his data and publishing his paper reporting his findings and writing a guidebook. Professor Shapiro provides a detailed list of the plants used by the butterflies of California in his guidebook. You will find roughly equal numbers of native and non-native plants on the list of plants they like as well as the plants they don’t like. This is how he summarizes these lists: “Most California natives in cultivation are of no more butterfly interest than nonnatives, and most of the best butterfly flowers in our area are exotic.” He also mentions that the Gulf fritillary was not established in the Bay Area until the 1950s because it does not have any native host here. Anise swallowtail is now multivoltine in California because non-native fennel is available year-around and its native host is dormant during the dry season.

    The monarch is another good example of the value of non-native plant species to butterflies. There are two monarch migrations in North America. Although the migration to Mexico is best known, there is also a migration west of the Rockies that spends the winter on the coast of California. Seventy-five percent of over-wintering monarchs are known to roost in non-native eucalyptus trees because they provide the optimal shelter. They also provide nectar from November to May when little else is flowering. Monarchs use both native and non-native species of milkweed to lay their eggs. In fact, in Australia and New Zealand there is no native species of milkweed, so a huge population of monarchs uses exclusively non-native milkweed.

    I have nothing against native plants, although climate change is rendering the definition of “native” meaningless. However, I am opposed to the destruction of existing ecosystems which are providing valuable habitat, particularly because of the herbicides being used to eradicate them. Surely we can all agree that whatever benefits there may be of native plants to wildlife, wildlife does not benefit from having their habitat poisoned with pesticides. And neither do we human gardeners.

  10. How, exactly, is climate change rendering the definition of “native” meaningless?

    My understanding of ‘native’ is: plant and animal communities that have co-evolved in a specific area over a very long period (thousands, not hundreds of years).

    Of course there are fluctuations, and migrations, in response to climatic and other environmental changes. Climate change does not alter the reality that many, many kinds of larvae depend on only a single or few kinds of plants. Butterflies and other insects take nectar from a wide variety of native and non-native flowers, but this adult adaptability is just not there in many cases when it comes to the survival of caterpillars and larvae.

    • Nell – the word “native” is so loosely defined, it is difficult to get a solid idea of When or where “native” is. Is native a certain radius from where you are planting? When in time should we choose for our particular idea of “native”? I am all for planting things that are naturally adapted to my region and that have been a food source for wildlife, but I simply don’t believe that nature stopped at the “native” place. We are in a time of accelerated change, and that actually DOES render some natives not suitable for my climate. My native climate is particularly hard, which may be why I am so strident when it comes to including well-adapted exotics into a smart, sustainable ecologically minded palette for a gardener. Some climates are more temperate and have a vast array of species to choose from – that’s great! I, however, look to Mexico, the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia for some of the stalwarts of my palette – anything invasive is unacceptable. By native standards, I shouldn’t be planting passiflora – thereby not inviting the delightful fritillary into my home. I find that too strict, too harsh – being encumbered by rules that were created to turn back the clock to a time when our land was pristine just seems so romantic to me, and more than a little conservative. I notice that the same language is used to talk about exotic plants that is used when talking about illegal immigration, and that makes me uncomfortable. I think it is a good thing to question dogma, whatever form it may take, and right now the dogma of the native-plants-only segment of the gardening world is really taking hold. To both positive and negative effects, in my opinion.

      • You have no idea how much super-intelligent conversations like these allow me to cope with the other stuff in my life with an ever withering brain cell population, and still feel like adults are in charge of the stuff that matters.

    • Climate change renders the concept of “native” meaningless because the ranges of plants and animals must change in response to the changing climate. Studies prove that ranges of plants and animals have already changed in the Northern Hemisphere to more northern latitudes and/or higher altitudes. (And vice versa in the Southern Hemisphere.) Given predicted increases in temperatures, these changes must continue for the foreseeable future. If plants and animals are to survive climate change, their “native” ranges must change or they must adapt in comparable ways. To demand that they remain in their historical ranges is to doom them to extinction.

      Furthermore, the concept of co-evolution is overblown by native plant advocates. Very few species have mutually exclusive relationships with other species because it is a risky evolutionary strategy. In other words, they have little long term evolutionary future. Therefore, the vast majority of insects are generalists (despite nativist’s claims to the contrary). Even when they are specialists, they are usually dependent upon a genus rather than a species and there are usually native and non-native members of the genus.

      Evolutionary change is much more rapid than the nativist ideology realizes. Particularly in a time of rapid environmental change, adaptation and evolution occur within a matter of generations. This is especially true of insects with huge populations and short lives. Evolution did not stop in 1492. It is happening every day whether we notice it or not.

      • Coevolution is not overblown, especially at the level of species.

        There is also very good research on deer numbers multiplying, native plants suffering, non-natives like garlic mustard increasing, and a decline in species diversity.

        Yes, evolutionary change can be rapid. We saw this with the evolution of our own species.

        You said,
        “Prticularly in a time of rapid environmental change, adaptation and evolution occur within a matter of generations.”

        Maybe, maybe not. Heck, we humans dropped to about 2,000 in number. We were very close to extinction at one point. The habitat loss acceleration, by whatever means, deer, farms, suburbs,has meant a loss natives and those living things that coevolved with them.

        (From my own experience, if not for volunteers erecting insectivore nestboxes, we could see the extinction of some insectivore speciesbecause of introduction of the invasive starling and weaver finch, a lack of dead trees, and fewer insects.)

        • marcia – yes there ARE invasive species that threaten habitats, but I am not advocating their use. I am advocating the use of well-adapted plants that are not invasive in one’s particular climate. Many natives are wildly invasive in my climate, and I would not use those, as they would cause just as much damage as an exotic invasive. I am at a loss at to why the conversation that I am trying to have gets shifted to “But all of the invasive plants that are threatening habitats!” Yes – BAD. NO TO THAT. But that is not this conversation. We are talking about the gray areas, the subtle spaces – not the dogmatic black and white.

  11. It is sad that we have so divorced ourselves from the natural world that some consider it a bad thing that humans move plants around. Many plants have evolved to depend on animals to disperse their seeds so that the plant species may survive and even thrive. Birds eat seeds, fly somewhere and deposit the seeds in a new location far from the parent. The American beech nut has hooks on its pod so that they will catch on animal fur to be carried far from the original tree. In some cases it is clearly to the plant’s advantage that we humans collect the fruit (for our own benefit) and move the seeds to a new location. The fact that we do it more intentionally than other animals does not detract from the fact that it is still beneficial for the plant. Yes, we have accelerated that movement, to the benefit of some plants and certainly to the detriment of others. How we balance that is a fair question.

    When it comes to the term native, Ivette has rightly asked when and where? Can I plant a ginkgo in my native garden? Fossil records prove it was in North America thousands of years ago, but it went extinct, only to be “returned” to this continent in the 19th century. A lot of people like to consider a plant native if it was here at the time of European contact. But Native Americans moved plants around well before that. Yaupon holly is a coastal plain plant in the US southeast, but it was carried/traded inland to the piedmont by many Native Americans because the leaves had caffeine and made a great tea. All before Europeans showed up on this shore. Should we remove any yaupon plantings in southern piedmont gardens because the yaupon was originally brought to the area by people?

    We are part of this natural world and thus will move plants. Learning how to do this intelligently and carefully is what we need to do.

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