Native or Not

Defining and identifying which plants are native is not easy because, first of all, there is no definitive definition.

Wikipedia definition:  “Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants). Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions.”

Sometimes it is difficult to find natives for sale at nurseries.  This False Foxglove was growing along our county road, so I dug up a couple of clumps about four years ago.

Texas Native Plant Society defines natives as plants that were growing naturally here when the European settlers came or plants that were growing naturally in this state at the beginning of the Holocene Recent Epoch, which began about 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age.

Really?

Actually, in Texas we are lucky to have Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center because they have native plant sales twice a year.

Another way to get natives is from a friend or an acquaintance.  This plant came from a garden club sale.  It is Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) that was growing in Texas at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, and thus is considered native by some botanists.

Now, how does anyone know that?  Is there a notebook somewhere that has descriptions and drawings of this plant?

The feathery soft leaves are nice in small vases with small flowers.

This was also bought at a garden club sale.  I thought it was native but after some research, I believe it is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine).  It is a sterile, non-reseeding variety.

Looks like it will grow much taller than I realized.  The reason it was planted in this cattle feeder was to shade the “feet” of a Clematis vine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of “native plant” is “a plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention.” That definition also might apply to many “naturalized” plants that were introduced long ago, but are now thriving and spreading without human intervention.

Dripping with blossoms, the Yellow Lead Ball Tree is a pretty small multi-branched tree.

Crossvine or Trumpet Flower (Bignonia capreolata) is a sought-after vine because it is a vigorous grower and has tubular flowers that draws pollinators.

Don’t confuse this with Trumpet Creeper or Cow-itch Vine (Campsis radicans) which is invasive.

Plants that were introduced by man during the last three hundred or so years and that have adapted to our landscape and climate are referred to as “naturalized.”  Some of these are aggressive and are considered invasive or noxious.

Mexican Buckeye or Texas Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) has pink/white flowers while it is leafing out and bears these unusual seed pods.  In fall the leaves are supposed to turn yellow.  This one was planted in early February.

Texas Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus var. berlandieri)is a Texas Native that has needle-like foliage.

It thrives in rocky bar ditches.

Long swaths of Pink Evening Primrose or Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) along the highway makes me want to stop and get up close to them.

Simple, yet lovely.

Native Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) does not like to be watered.  These appear in flower beds but die out if over watered.

Ox-eye  or Margarita Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgarde) is considered by many to be a native but is actually native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The whole idea of native versus non-native is a hot topic right now in Texas.  Some people are offended by planting anything but natives.  But as the definitions show, that is not an exact science.  Others think that natives do not belong in urban settings.

Personally, I plant what will survive and do well in my region.  If I like something that won’t survive our winter, then I put it in a pot.  Then it can be moved into a shed.  My philosophy:   be practical and lighten up.

Sorry this is so long.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.  I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont.”  Lady Bird Johnson

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