My Silver rule: Don't plant nursery natives that cross with my wild natives

My "golden rule" is pretty much a no-brainer. But my silver rule can seem paradoxical - why not plant California natives in California!?  This rule doesn’t apply to gardeners such as Ms Town Mouse, who live in the middle of the suburbs. Only to those of us gardening in the WUI - the wild land-urban interface — and even for us, it’s perhaps controversial.

Not everyone agrees with this silver rule, but I want to keep my local wild plants as they are. Local = unique. Unique = irreplaceable.

I'm not always clear about what will and won’t cross. Monkeyflowers, iris, ceanothus, manzanita, dudleya – anything that you can buy nice cultivars and selections of – they’ll probably cross with indigenous natives.
Propagated local wild bush monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus)
Before I became concerned, I enjoyed the garden cultivars, and they are definitely showy, with bigger and more abundant blooms, and different colors.

Cultivar Mimulus aurantiacus 'Trish', along with seaside daisy, Erigeron glaucus
After I started my local natives propagation efforts, I (sadly) removed all the cultivars. But I missed one 'Trish' down by the driveway.

Local wild bush monkeyflower plants- with a brick-red 'Trish' cross nestled among them.
Others enjoy horticultural projects of developing pretty garden flowers. That's not my project. If you live in a wilderness area, consider your own position on this.

Some people, for example, think we should plant more Southern California natives in the wild lands farther north, to prepare for global warming. Or introduce natives of the same species as the local indigenous ones, but from other areas, again, to introduce more genes into the pool, and make them more adaptable to changing climate conditions.

There's middle positions too - some people don't care about monkeyflower crosses, but do care about dudleya crosses, for example - I'm not entirely sure of the reasoning.

I’m trying to follow up on these questions about introducing nursery natives in a wilderness area, and will get back to you. For my purposes, I'll be identifying and (sadly) removing my pretty garden cultivars that can - from my viewpoint - taint the local populations.

Note: whenever I write in this vein, I become uncomfortable with the "eugenic" tone of the writing. Be assured - I'm only talking about plants here - not people!


Anonymous said…
Hi Country Mouse.

Love your blog and I agree that planting hybrid natives next to wild areas is risky. Would like to point out though that your picture of Mimulus 'Eleanor' in this mornings blog is more likely to be the hybrid 'Trish'. Could be wrong as there are many hybrid reds out there. 'Eleanor' has a pale yellow/peach colored flower. Someone probably mixed the tags up at the nursery.

Thanks again for the blog. I enjoy it a lot.

Country Mouse said…
Ah - I wasn't sure. I tried finding photos of Eleanor and they looked like mine - Now I realize Google was first finding MY photos. What happened was simply that I had both Trish and Eleanor in the same bed and got confused - Thanks Jeff! - The nursery was not at fault :-) And thanks for your kind words.
Kaveh Maguire said…
There is a big difference between cultivars of a species and hybrids.

I can see your concern with hybrids possibly tainting the local pool but not so much with cultivars since they are usually just selections grown for specific traits (size, color, hardiness, etc.). Any crosses that result from a cultivar will generally just revert back to the species.
Country Mouse said…
Yes - cultivars are selections. But there are those who won't plant the same species that originates outside the watershed, Kaveh. It's a hard area to make sense of, and that's what I want to do in the upcoming weeks and months.
Town Mouse said…
I think many factors play into this. I'm always amazed when I see the many different manzanita at Tilden Botanical Garden. They don't seem to have a problem with interbreeding. I thing Tilden also has many different varieties of ceanothus.

Maybe we can find out more from the good people up there next time we go.
Country Mouse said…
I don't know if they are propagating from the specimens planted out in the park. It's a good question. I can also ask at the UCSC arboretum - they would have the same issues.