Losing Native Naivety

Our walk to the Elms Environmental Education Center's pond last week was preceded by a slide talk about the importance of using native plants in watershed protection projects. The point was made by +Kurt Reitz, our gracious host, that the reason we want native plants is for the insects.
Photo by Tim Hynes
It takes a while to pull that thread, but what it amounts to is that plants feed insects and insects feed animals and native plants are evolutionarily adapted to the food chain of their area.

I become a little indifferent to the native plant appeals when I recall that I have a food chain that currently doesn't rely on foraging and hunting. In the expectation that this could change rather quickly, I am endeavoring to establish a food forest around my home, but not strictly using natives. Planting natives is a very helpful environmental practice, but environmentmental restoration still takes a back-seat to survival. However, as our fossil-fueled supply chain falters, rejoining the local food chain may become essential to survival.

The more I garden, the more I take pleasure in growing ornamentals. Yet, future reliance on agroforestry for a multitude of resources that will no longer be derived from or made using fossil fuels deters me from planting lots of native ornamentals mainly for environmental preservation.

There are some edible natives, however, that deserve a place in my forest garden. These include: Paw-paw, persimmon, gooseberry, black raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and elderberry. I already have everything but the first and last of these. They aren't all that I wish to grow in the way of edibles, so non-natives will be in the mix. Then there are the less edible plants that provide other key functions in support of cultivated trees, including the insectary role. The time it takes to harvest, preserve, and consume or distribute the perennial bounty will ultimately determine where my forest farming ends and ornamental gardening begins.

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