Native? Exotic? Invasive? Say what?

Nobody likes a boring post about terminology but this blog uses these terms all the time, so... I'll be brief.
California Native Plants are plants that grow in the California Floristic Province. There's a lot of them, and not all of them do well in all parts of California. That's where the term Locally Native Plants comes in: Las Pilitas has a cool Plant Communities by Zipcode tool (Town Mouse lives in Mixed Evergreen Forest country, though you wouldn't think so looking around).

Exotics are plants that didn't grow here before the white settlers arrived. Exotic might sound like a derogatory term, but if the exotic isn't invasive, it can be a good choice for the garden. Where I live, plants from other mediterranean climate regions (South Africa and Australia for example) consistently do well. The San Francisco Botanical Garden has a truly stunning collection of mediterranean plants.

Invasives are plants that spread rapidly. They can become a big problem when they escape into the wild and take over where Natives should be growing. Native insects don't have enough food, which in turn, has an effect on birds and other critters. Bringing Nature Home, reviewed here, talks eloquently about the problems with invasives and the benefits of natives.

Dandelion might be invasive (picture credits on this post). A are a number of other invasive plants creating big problems. Scotch broom, Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), Pampas Grass, and, yes, Cotoneaster come to mind. These plants cost the taxpayer money (eradication), the native bird population suffers and...well, I was going to be brief. Different plants are invasive in different areas, so you need to do your homework if you want to be sure you don't get an invasive. Many nurseries -- unless they're specialty nurseries -- stock invasives, either because they don't know or because people buy them. We have a clickable logo at the bottom of our blog as a reminder. (If you don't live in California, you're on your own but there are good resources for other states on the Internet, and Invasipedia is starting to collect it)

Protect California Wildlands -- Don't plant invasives

After all, what's more fun than having a beautiful garden that people love? Having a beautiful garden that people, birds, and critters love, and that doesn't habor invasives!

Comments

Move over so I can join you on this soapbox. Gardeners need to educate themselves about what shouldn't be planted in their area. It floors me that some big names in horticulture grow invasive plants and really don't consider it a big deal. It makes me want to run screaming.
AnneTanne said…
And the American natives, are sometimes invasive here...
As far as possible, I plant native species in my garden, but my husband likes to add exotic ones... Never mind, as long as he doesn't fancy invasive species...
Bravo, Town Mouse. I personally have a mix of natives and nonnatives in my gardens, but I try not to harbor the bad guys. I have a few that are questionable--not on the invasive list yet, but probably should be--that I hope to replace soon. Buckthorn is a big invader of the woodlands around here. Lots of people have it in their yards and sculpt it into beautiful hedges. I've even seen it on garden walks--where people should know better, but don't. Okay, I'm getting off MY soapbox now before I REALLY get carried away...
Country Mouse said…
Ya - Great post, Partner Mouse! I also just commented on an article in today's (i.e. 2/26/09) San Francisco Chronicle that said: to encourage wildlife, just plant a variety of plants. Please go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/24/HOKA15UUUT.DTL and click Recommend on my comment - I'm Packy, comment 11 - so it shows up right below the article!!
Town Mouse said…
OK, recommended the comment. Interesting how uncivil the tone of many comments is. Must be folks (well, men probably) who don't get outside enough...
Excellent post and easy to understand. And I don't mean that in a patronizing way, that's how I like to get my info. I'm heading over to the Chronicle to check out the article. Although maybe it's just bad reporting? I was quoted in the Contra Costa Times in their lawn alternatives article a few weeks ago and every quote was wrong. It's a reminder to me to take what I read with a grain of salt. Oh well, at least the garden picture was pretty (even if mislabeled LOL).
I'm back! Mission accomplished - I picked your comment in the Chronicle.
AnneTanne said…
Thank you for this post... It gave me inspiration to post an article on my blog about this subject (adding fuel to the ongoing discussion on Belgian wildlife-gardening blogs). (My article - with an English translation - will be published tomorrow.)