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Native Plants Are The Only Plants – True Or False?

Some gardeners and horticulturists are real purists. “Native plants are the only plants for our landscapes,” they proclaim, while looking down their noses at anyone who would even consider a plant native to the Midwest, let alone the far east.

Not me! I choose plants for a number of criteria, only one of which is the plant’s place of origin. There are a great many plants from far away places that do just fine here in our unique corner of the world. Case in point, the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba).

Ginkgo is considered an Asian tree because that is where the original tree from which those we plant today was found. It was found in China to be exact, but fossils of its unique, triangular leaf have been found in other parts of the world, including North America. It is believed that Native Americans enjoyed eating parts of the fruit (the non-smelly parts) and people today take pills made from this tree to help their memory.

Just as America is a melting pot for people, it is also a melting pot for plants. Sure, we get a clunker sometimes. Some introduced plants are so prolific that they become invasive. But there are also natives that were invasive before we learned how to control them.

The point of this rant is that there are many good introduced plants in the nursery trade today, just as there are some pretty boring native plants. Many plants sold in the nursery trade today are clones and cultivars, so it doesn’t matter where the parents came from originally. This is the process by which we have been able to introduce disease resistant elms and chestnuts, for example.

So, when you make your planting list for next spring, don’t be an isolationist. Don’t be encumbered by a plant’s point of origin. Buy it for its beauty, its ability to flourish in the spot you have picked out for it, and its maintenance needs. In other words, pick the right plant for the right spot regardless of its homeland.

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