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November 30, 2010


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Allow me to expound on the use of native plants. It's important for people to know that native plants, taken out of their homes, can also be invasive. The best practice is to plant native plants in the same area where their parents/forebears lived.

This means we should not buy native plants from outside San Francisco, for example, to plant in San Francisco--even if we're considering a particular genus and species that does grow here. There is one exception, but the bar is set quite high; we should know for sure whether our chosen plant presents no risk to local natives. And I'd like to meet the person who can prove their exception.

Jake Sigg wrote, "The term native plant means native to the site; it has no other meaning. Native plants of a given site interact with each other and with local wildlife—the birds, the bees, butterflies and other insects, the soil microfauna and flora—even the local pathogens. These organisms are all intricately woven into the living fabric we call an ecosystem. Ecosystems have sorted out these relationships over the eons, and they are finely tuned. Absent these relationships and the plant you just planted may be just another exotic plant; it may have come from another part of California but it may just as well have come from the other side of the ocean, as it left components of its ecosystem behind. Further, because it lacks these interactions, some of the introductions may even spread out of control and displace other plants and animals that have been there for thousands of years." (This was printed in the California Native Plant Society's Fremontia 2010. See this article for details and examples, such as the beach evening primrose, Camissonia cheiranthifolia, from southern California, which rapidly displaced the local San Francisco subspecies, which no longer exists here.)

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