You’ve heard me say before that nativars are cultivars of native plants. They are not native plants. As I was browsing through the Prairie Moon Nursery’s Native Gardeners Companion recently, I ran across this very excellent case for using native plants, not cultivars or nativars (pg 13). See if you agree.
Some companies also believe they can “improve” native plants by propagating to select specific characteristics like flower size, leaf color or compactness of growth. The resultant cultivated varieties (cultivars or nativars) can reliably reproduce the targeted variation but the ecological value and genetic diversity of the original plant are diminished.
Sporting colorful descriptions after their botanical names, these cultivars now are widely available. Their splashy features mask unintended consequences of the variations. Blossom-size and changes in color or fragrance can confuse or deprive nectaring and pollinating insects, robbing them of the much needed nectar for energy and the ability to carry out pollination services for future propagation of plants. Many cultivars are sterile, depriving wildlife of winter seed sources. Vegetative propagation yields identical clones, decreasing the genetic diversity and flexibility that should be a plant community’s strength.
We encourage you to avoid these cultivars in favor of species that were truly native to North America at the time of European settlement. In restoration work and native landscaping, we believe that alien species, naturalized species and cultivars should be avoided, especially when they might contaminate native gene pools. Just like the wildflower seed packets that include naturalized Asian and European plants in their offerings,…while they have cosmetic appeal to some, cultivars did not co-evolve with North American insects and wildlife, so have little value to them.
Use Space and Resources Wisely
Native plants and seeds are becoming more and more available throughout the USA. Don’t you agree the space and resources non-native plants use would be better devoted to truly native plant species? Why diminish biodiversity by contaminating the environment with less beneficial plant species.
Paraphrased with permission from Prairie Moon Nursery.
See also Cheerios and Bees