My Weekly Dose of Wild (2015): native vs naturalized


15.07.29

I was truly surprised to find out from a friend years ago that Queen Anne's Lace wasn't a native plant.  I grew up with Queen Anne's Lace, you see it dotting every field and it's a beautiful wildflower that many people are familiar with.  It's also beneficial to insects and added to some plant lists for butterfly gardens.  How could it be alien to this area?

Earlier this year I posted some images of bees visiting a Bladder Campion flower, happy to see that insects were benefiting from another alien, non-native plant.  Is a plant worthy of our landscape if it feeds our local wildlife?  What defines a weed?

One day for our landscaping job, we were asked to weed a garden bed in a backyard of someone who hadn't been able to garden all spring due to an injury.  From afar it was difficult to determine that the spot was filled with weeds.  It looked like a healthy grouping of white flowers.  Even upon closer inspection, it was an amazing patch of this non-native flower, the Bladder Campion, and I truly was saddened knowing that I was pulling out healthy flowers that was benefiting many pollinating insects.  Why not keep this garden bed as is, since it seemed to be a landscaped effort - looking very neat and tidy from all angles?  Or at least leave it until the flower has faded and can provide no more sustenance for our native insects?

Even the Japanese Knotwood which can be very invasive, provides a huge bouquet of fall flowers that pollinators gorge on, when food sources are more scarce and difficult to come by.  I found some a few years ago when I was just starting to learn the identification of many common wildflowers and I was impressed by how many bees were attracted to it in the warm September days.  If we rip it out and eliminate this plant, should we make it a point to at least replace it with another autumn bloom?

Native vs naturalized.  What determines value?  Someone posted a picture of Fleabane to a local naturalist group wanting to know what the flower was and wondering whether it was invasive.  They were "trying to decide whether to keep it for the wildlife or not".  The first replies posted were advising to rip it out, stating that it can take over gardens and that it had little value but I found that the Illinois Wildflower website had another view: "While the fleabanes (Erigeron spp.) are often dismissed as 'weeds' because of their ubiquitousness during the summer, they are actually rather attractive plants that are beneficial to many small insects that have important roles in the functioning of the ecological system".  Sometimes small, may be very small - and these tiny insects that we hardly notice are one tier of a much larger complex system.  I've posted this before and I have become so much more aware of it when I'm down on my knees weeding at work or taking photos of flowers.

I know I'm interested in welcoming in some naturalized plants to my garden.

And I hope that others start seeing the benefits also!

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(I'll be taking a blogging break for the month of August!  See you in September!)


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