Friday, March 18, 2016

Natives vs. Exotics

I receive a variety of responses (comments) to the Flora Wonder Blog, some which enlighten me, some that correct me, some that support me and alas, a few that condemn me. I read the following three times...trying to make sense of it:

Native Pseudotsuga menziesii at Flora Farm

Native Quercus garryana at Flora Farm

“So what's so wrong about promoting sole use of our native plants? The nursery industry had [sic] made it fashionable to grow the exotic 'non-native' plants, for the most part replacing native plants that are critical for the survival of our native insects and animals...You seem rarely to speak about the virtues of our wonderfully endangered native plants now, thanks to your philosophy that non-natives are ok because people want them. This industry has failed in recognizing its duty to keep our environment healthy...Your list of offerings is based on their ability to generate revenues and that is based on the fact that you also control the offerings. Talk about the evils of Big Box are not much better.

Exotics and natives coexisting peacefully in the Flora Wonder Arboretum

Wow – I resemble that! This commenter is a male, I can tell, and he has certainly worked himself into a lather in Mom's basement, but at least he is devoted to saving our “...wonderfully endangered native plants...” Woah, is it wonderful that our native plants are endangered? Anyway, is there science that proves that planting a Japanese maple endangers our native insects and animals? In my experience the exotics and the natives coexist peacefully – at least in the Flora Wonder Arboretum – where our ruby-throated hummingbirds love to nest in the canopies of Japanese maples. I have never seen their nests in our native Acer macrophyllum, circinatum or glabrum, though I suppose that some do, but I have never seen it in my world.

Buchholz preaching to the cognoscenti

You know, I admit to preaching in the Flora Wonder Blog; I tell you my likes and dislikes, and I provide you with well-reasoned opinions as well as those that are admittedly half-baked. Not to come across as arrogant, not at all, but Seth and I produce the blog for ourselves, not for you. Well, Seth participates, when he would probably rather not, but at least he is usually a good sport about it. Since I “preach,” I guess it's ok that you readers can preach back to me. The difference is that I identify myself, whereas the pony-tailed basement dweller does not – he is Mr. A, Mister Anonymous, so I can't really embrace his nit-wit manifesto.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Ginkgo biloba

When the queerly-opinionated Mr. A. states that “I rarely speak about...,” the implication is that he is a frequent blog reader. Good God, A, why torture yourself? Yes, I am into and absorbed with exotics. My wife is Japanese and we have produced two wonderful hybrid children, both of whom have already – at one third your age – contributed more to the betterment of the world than you. Should I have instead saddled myself with a native Oregon woman? What is native anyway? Should my wife be native to the same state as me? The same city? The same street? Should I have mated with my cousin or my sister? What, Mr. A., is native? Is Metasequoia glyptostroboides “native” to Oregon? Of course not, you would say, it is native to China, and it should not be planted in Oregon. Well, I counter, it used to be native, as supported by the fossil where do you stand on that? I have a Ginkgo fossil from North Dakota, and if I lived in Fargo would you be cool with me growing a Ginkgo there?

Thuja plicata

Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'

Hey, Mr. A. – I like natives at least as much as non-natives, it's just that I can't make a living with them. I do sell a few natives anyway, and the blog which you tarnished with your curious vision actually mentioned Rubus spectabilis and Thuja plicata. I also mentioned Oregon's pocket gopher – one of those animals that you so cherish – but I shoot them whenever I can as they damage the roots on my exotic Ginkgo biloba. Careful now, don't you pop up out of a gopher hole.

There are a number of nurseries that grow native plants only. These are usually supported by government projects, and those projects are supported by me, the taxpayer. Do you know that I am in the minority, that a greater number of American adults pay no federal tax at all? Are you one of them? So I guess I actually do support native plants, because I've paid far more taxes in my life than you ever will.

Native plants at Flora Farm

Saya fishing the Tualatin River

A Monet moment on the Tualatin

Adios, Luna
Besides, I own about 45 acres of fields and woods that are entirely native. The native deer come up from the woods along the Tualatin River and visit my apple orchard every fall. The trees are exotic, but the deer don't seem to mind. My woods contain a pack of coyotes – do you love them also? – which howl at night, and they even snatched the family cat on the front lawn, just ten steps from the door. My property hosts eagles and hawks and herons and egrets – and it's fun to watch the latter two perform their mating dance. Just before daylight doves begin to coo, and robins (Turdus migratorius) serenade me. Soon the frogs will also perform, basso profondo, in the morning orchestra. As ridiculous as politicians debating about who is the more religious, is your assertion that I haven't “recognized my duty about keeping the environment healthy.”

So you see, Mr. A. that I am not as evil as “Big Box Stores.” They pave thousands of acres and sell cheap stuff from China that is manufactured with polluting ingredients. A salesman once stopped by the nursery to promote plastic containers from China because they were less expensive. I wondered if each pot had its own DNA.

Japanese maples in autumn

Don't take this blog personally Mr. A., I'm just messing with you a little bit. You can use the roads that I paid for while you're trying to find a job. Keep taking your meds – your Mom thinks they are helping – while I'll go outside and hug a Japanese maple.

The exotic morning sun coming from 92.96 million miles away


  1. I read your blog often, but not as often as I would like. My take on your blog is that you promote plants, not native, not exotic, but all plants. One I posting I really enjoyed was the native plants you encountered on your trip to North Carolina. It brought back memories of growing up in Virginia
    Here is my problem with being exclusively native. I believe you have customers all over the US and into Canada. If you were to only grow natives you would be restricted to customers in the PNW and other parts of the West Coast. If you expanded and grew plants native to North America, you would have to separate availability list for each region. If you grew Venus Flytraps you could sell them only to clients on the east coast of North and South Carolina. You would have to hire a lot more staff to keep track of all regions.
    I live in beautiful Victoria, BC. The city in the last few years has been obsessed with planting native. Natives on city trail, medians, walkways and local parks. I see many of these plants suffering. Earlier today I walked a local city trail. On one part, the trail circles a planting of Salal, Gaultherian shallon. It is in a very dry location in the full sun and the plants are in need of CPR. Just because it is native to a region, does not mean it is native to all parts of that region. The city seems to love, Mahonia aquifolium, enough to plant in medians. My question is;
    Are the native Anna’s Hummingbirds, street wise enough to avoid heavy traffic?
    The last thing I would like to say is, the person that compared you to a Big Box store, obviously has never visited the farm.
    Take care, Mark C Dickerson

  2. A wonderful reply to Mr.Anonymous. I've been in the Green industry since I graduated from college with an Ornamental Horticulture degree in my hand.
    After working for several large plant nurseries, I moved from Chicago to rural Wisconsin. Here we have wonderful, abundant native plants. I started a Landscaping and design business here in 1980-2010.

    I can't go through the experience of 45 yrs, so I wont.
    I will say that there are many beautiful, practical, exotic plants in the Landscape here now.
    Think of the beauty, plants that are not native coexisting with Natives.

    I have plantings of Fothergilla, Rhododendron, Ginkgoes, Acer pseudosieboldianum, and crosses that have given me the and others who I planted for the enjoyment of growing Japanese maples here in the North.

    Natives and exotics can be combined in a manageable way to provide
    unique ways to garden and design.

  3. I’m now inclined to defend the blogger here. Yes, newbie greenies picking fights seems to be a theme these days.

    I am a landscape architect, OR #225, one of the old ones. I went to UofO in the 70's and got one of the most environmentally oriented educations in Landscape Architecture at the time in the USA. I quickly learned you can't design nature but you can design with nature. I've spent nearly 40 years observing natural habitats as well as gardens in the PNW with the hope that I could make some good choices on how to integrate this knowledge into sustainable & aesthetic created landscapes/gardens. I wish it were as easy as waving a wand.

    We are very lucky to live in the PNW that has one of the more diverse regions in North America in environment and vegetation. Our region is made of many phytogeographic units that fit together and are interrelated to specific environmental factors such as exposure, elevation, location, soils, geology, etc.
    We have been studying and classifying these as general habitat/plant provinces that differ greatly in moisture, temperature and substrate for a century. Our present vegetational mosaic is complex, and so the evolution of the flora and plant formations to our region. And don’t forget about succession, which includes the weather.

    So when some insist (Mr. A.) that we for instance “solely” grow or sell only “native/indigenous” plant materials, I immediately think to my self are we talking “Vegetarian” or “Vegan” as far as use goes? Which by that I define “Vegan” as do only plant combinations that are only indigenous for that are specific location and microclimate? Or “Vegetarian” are we allow to chose plants from broader subdivisions of the NW, create our own combinations and modify our own particular plant settings so our these plant selections will adapt to it and perhaps even be able to use some complimentary exotics in this equation? Will the bees, birds, fungi, etc know the difference? As a designer and environmentalist I’ve been struggling with this for years.

    I bought Arthur R. Kruckeberg’s book Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific NW in 1981 as soon as it came off the presses. And I have tried to use his principles as a guide for creating built gardens for years. I agree with his quote: “The use of native plants as living ornaments in our built environment (cities, suburbia, rural communities) is a logical extension of our concern for preserving some of the Northwest’s natural features.” I don’t think I know many gardeners or designer’s that don’t think native plants shouldn’t be part of our efforts, they do, it’s untapped potential always has been. BUT my question is can we be “Vegetarian” about it or only “Vegan? I think is all good, I don’t think one is better then the other.

    So get your duck’s in order Mr. A, show us how we should do it, give us examples, instead of lecturing, bullying, and disparaging us in the little side the “Greenie” industry. We are all in this big succession pattern together, lead by example, negative criticism rarely attracts people to your cause.

    Thank you.

  4. Agree with your point - long-time nurseryman, lover of non-invasive exotics and bored with natives-only types. Apparently they hate apples? Native to Kazakhstan...but I digress.

    Just wish you could have made your point without insulting. I don't live in my mother's basement but my freak flag (ponytail) flies proudly in the wind and I don't think you did your/our cause any favors by dismissing an entire (perceived) class of people. I have a job that deals daily with the people you're stereotyping and believe me, I do feel your anger - but you SOUND angry and you're preaching to the choir here, converting no one. No offense. ;)

  5. It is so humorous to me for Mr A to be so purist. All plants evolved from the one continent of Pangea; so whatever DNA was on this super continent is shared
    by all plants existing today. If one were to read Invasion Biology Critique Of A Pseudoscience (which is a little over the top)still makes many good points. The idea that we and plants are all related makes cogent sense. I don't want to and can't stop evolution.

  6. You just made my day! --from a Non-native north carolinian

  7. Best Blog Post Ever!
    Guy Meacham (Non Native Englishman)