Native, or Not So Much?

Read the full story from the National Wildlife Federation.

It’s hard to imagine what butterflies and bees make of the Alice-in-Wonderlandlike world of plants that pass as natives at nurseries these days. Bred for Day-Glo foliage, double flower heads, disease resistance and other atypical features, these cultivated varieties of native species, or “nativars,” are often the only native plants available at local garden centers—and that could be a problem for wildlife.

As research increasingly shows, native plants are key to creating a wildlife-friendly garden. By definition, a native plant (or “straight species”) occurs naturally in a given location or region. A nativar is sometimes a natural variant that has been found in the wild and brought into cultivation, but often it has been developed by a plant breeder and would never be found in nature. In the words of Doug Tallamy, a University of Delaware entomologist and author of Bringing Nature Home, the proliferation of nativars demonstrates the extent to which the nursery trade “is still stuck on the idea of plants as enhanced decoration” rather than as essential to wildlife.

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