The Issue of Nativars

The Issue of Nativars

Just a few columns ago, I suggested we all need to seriously consider the issue of native plants. I said we should be telling people many of the plants we already grow are American natives, or at least make a Native Plant heading on your availability list. The desire to use natives is no longer a fad.

The movements to ecological awareness, to gardening as a lifestyle — not an activity — and the need to make gardening more of a feel-good experience are washing over us. A subset of the feel-good experiences is the desire to include more native plants in American landscapes and gardens. Great performing plants and native plants are not at all exclusive.

Why would I suggest that you can get into trouble if you grow natives? It comes down to peoples’ very different definitions of a native plant. There are often two big questions when a fight breaks out about native plants.

The first that always rears its head is, “What do you mean by native?” Native to your county, your state, your region or your country? Native when Columbus sailed the ocean blue or when Erik the Red discovered Greenland in 986? For many people, this falls into the realm of politics and religion. For me, when I talk about natives, I define them as those plants that were on the North American mainland before the Europeans arrived. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. As for you, find a definition you are comfortable with and do the same.

The second is far more inflammatory. “Is a cultivar between two native species still a native?” Certainly, the answer is no to those who work in woodland or coastline reclamation or to those who want to plant native meadows or maintain purity of species. That is fine. There are many plants to choose from. However, what about my daughters, my design students, people in my audiences and my friends who want to use natives but need better garden performance than a species can provide? If we, as an industry, are ever going to get native plants into the mainstream, we have take advantage of the new breeding and selection in foam flowers, cone flowers and tickseeds. The promotion of cultivars is the only way we can help fill the desire to include native plants.

As a compromise between these two lines of thought, I suggest we call native cultivars and hybrids “nativars.” If we use this term, purists may not get as upset with us for stealing their plants and diluting the meaning of “native.” We will also reduce confusion and in fact provide additional value to the native moniker. Using nativars will in the long run enhance the native plant movement, regardless of how it is defined. They will also increase our ability to get good plants into the hands of those who want that feel-good reaction and not feel guilty in doing so.

According to native plant purists, cultivars just sully up the game plan. According to breeders of baptisias, monarda and phlox, purists are nothing but collectors. Don’t get into arguments, find your comfort level. Use or don’t use nativars. But understand one thing — the lifestyle movement is here to stay.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Hibiscus Hollywood Gossip Queen

January 24, 2017

29 New Flowering and Foliage Plants from TPIE 2017

The Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was the place to be Jan. 18-20 to catch a peek at some of the new plant introductions making their first appearance on the market.

Read More
Quick Plug

January 24, 2017

Dümmen Orange Acquires Quick Plug, a Cutting Compost Supplier

Quick Plug technology is designed to open up opportunities for automation and robotization of several product groups and add quality to rooted products.

Read More
EPCOT Suntory Princettia Euphorbia

January 23, 2017

Princettia Euphorbias Charm Vacationers at Disney Resorts

Suntory’s Princettia euphorbias have brought a new color palette to the holiday landscapes at Walt Disney World’s resorts and theme parks in central Florida.

Read More
Latest Stories
Hibiscus Hollywood Gossip Queen

January 24, 2017

29 New Flowering and Foliage Plants from TPIE 2017

The Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was the place to be Jan. 18-20 to catch a peek at some of the new plant introductions making their first appearance on the market.

Read More
Quick Plug

January 24, 2017

Dümmen Orange Acquires Quick Plug, a Cutting Compost Su…

Quick Plug technology is designed to open up opportunities for automation and robotization of several product groups and add quality to rooted products.

Read More
EPCOT Suntory Princettia Euphorbia

January 23, 2017

Princettia Euphorbias Charm Vacationers at Disney Resor…

Suntory’s Princettia euphorbias have brought a new color palette to the holiday landscapes at Walt Disney World’s resorts and theme parks in central Florida.

Read More
Youngs Plant Farm Trial Garden feature

January 21, 2017

Don’t Miss the Southern Garden Tour This June

Growers, retailers, and all industry professionals are invited to the 2017 Southern Garden Tour, which is hosted by Young’s Plant Farms, Sakata, and Metrolina Greenhouses, and will be held June 6-8.

Read More
Gaillardia 'Mesa Red'

January 21, 2017

2016 Pike Creek Horticulture Center Field Trials Result…

Check out the 2016 field trials results for The Pike Creek Horticulture Center in Kenosha, WI.

Read More
Anna Chernyavsky

January 20, 2017

New Director of Sales for Bedding Plants and Perennials…

Anna Chernyavsky, who joined Danziger in August 2016, will be in charge of the U.S. and United Kingdom markets.

Read More
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer BloomStruck’ (Bailey Nurseries)

January 19, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Hosting Spring Previews in February

The previews, which provide education, new variety information, and retail support programs, will take place in Illinois, Minnesota, and Boston.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

January 18, 2017

2016 C. Raker & Sons Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI.

Read More
Joe Cimino, Sakata Seed America

January 17, 2017

Sakata Seed Names New Senior Sales Manager for Ornament…

Joe Cimino comes to Sakata with past experience at Sun Gro and Florexpo.

Read More
JinPin Flower Seedling Company partners

January 17, 2017

Ernst Benary Partners With Chinese Young Plant Grower o…

The partnership creates a new company called Jinpin Flower Seedling Company, which will focus on providing young plants to the rapidly growing Chinese bedding plant market.

Read More
Dipladenia Sundenia

January 11, 2017

New Tropical and Foliage Plants That Offer Hidden Benef…

Tropical and foliage plants can offer extra paybacks to your customers in terms of health-promoting benefits such as filtering the air, reducing stress, and absorbing noise. Consider these new varieties, hitting the retail market in 2017, for your product mix.

Read More
craspedia-golf-beauty-danziger-feature

January 9, 2017

Growing Tips for Craspedia ‘Golf Beauty’

Laura Robles of Mast Young Plants offers advice on ‘Golf Beauty,’ a novelty plant with can’t-miss yellow flower heads and silver foliage that blooms throughout the summer.

Read More
Bride with wedding orchids.

January 7, 2017

How to Stand Out in the Orchid Market

With the popularity of the Phalaenopsis orchid growing and its saturation in the market, orchid growers are hunting for new ways to stand out from their competitors.

Read More
California Coast

January 3, 2017

Expect Big Changes for California Spring Trials 2017

California Spring Trials 2017 will be here before you know it. Find out what you can look forward to and get a head start on planning and registering for your trip.

Read More
Begonia Whopper Experimental

January 2, 2017

2016 The Ohio State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
westerlay-orchids-feature

January 1, 2017

How Westerlay Orchids Solved Its Bacteria Problem

Water-borne bacteria was causing havoc with Westerlay Orchids’ production, so the company took preventative action to ensure the health of its plants.

Read More
nepeta-purple-wave-with-roses

December 30, 2016

Allan Armitage: Plants That Can Bring Success in the Ne…

Are you wondering which plants to grow? Here are some perennials, annuals, and herbs that are gaining popularity.

Read More
Honeybelle combo

December 27, 2016

19 New Combos for Containers Big and Small

Check out 19 combos and mixes new for the retail marketplace in 2017 that offer something for every container type.

Read More