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Why California Natives?

Tuesday January 04, 2011

Simply put, native plants are those that existed in California prior to European discovery and settlement.   Over many thousands of years, the flora of California has evolved to be in perfect concert with the complex geography and climate of the area.  No matter the type of soil, solar orientation, altitude, or climate, a plant (or number of plants) has evolved to take advantage of the available opportunity...all without irrigation!

california native plants sage and manzanita

But in California's short history post European contact,  thousands of exotic plants have been introduced, many of which are benign and rarely grow beyond the confines of a garden.  However, a growing number of exotics displace natives and compromise the inherit value of plant communities. 

For example, European grass seed was imported to provide invasive pampas grass along highway onea familiar fodder to grazing animals.  These annuals, combined with poor grazing techniques, have all but eliminated native grasslands.  Thatching reed was imported as a quick-growing building material.  Now it chokes riparian waterways through southern California.  Pampas grass was  imported as a way to prevent erosion and was also prized for its flower plumes.  It has now spread so dramatically that many people take it to be a native throughout the state!  These exotics, now labeled as "invasives", threaten not only the plant communities, but also the fauna that has co-evolved to depend on the health of the community.

Exotics and invasives are so integrated in our cultivated landscape that natives are by far the minority.  The "east coast" or "European" style landscape, based on a climate completely different from ours, has deep roots in the landscape.  Lawns and water-thirsty perennials/annuals, which have evolved pefectly in their own unique climate, are ram-rod forced into a climate not designed for them.  As such, we spend enormous amounts of unnecessary time, energy and resources subsidizing their health with water the state doesn't have and chemicals that the land rejects.  In an ever shrinking world with ever shrinking resources, utilizing native plants as a solution to many problems must become accepted and widespread.

Restoring native plants into our cultivated landscape has many benefits including:
•Provides habitat for local wildlife, especially insects and birds
•Reduces the amount of fertilizers needed
•Reduces water usage
•Encourages a personal connection to the subtle rhythms of our Mediterranean climate and an appreciation for our environment.

Read more on native plants » Why Native Plants?

connie3h said...

Tuesday January 11, 2011

Well said!