Should I plant native, exotic or spontaneous plant material? There’s a debate on what plants we as home gardeners should plant.

Invasive plants are introduced species that can thrive in areas beyond their natural range of dispersal. These plants are characteristically adaptable, aggressive, and have a high reproductive capacity. Their vigor combined with a lack of natural enemies often leads to outbreak populations into our nations' fields, pastures, forests, wetlands and waterways, natural areas, and right-of-ways. Variously referred to as exotic, nonnative, alien, noxious, or non-indigenous weeds, invasive plants impact native plant and animal communities by displacing native vegetation and disrupting habitats as they become established and spread over time. Most people consider an invasive species to be one that was NOT here prior to the settlements of Europeans in North America. The U.S. Government defines it as one that is "not native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm of environmental harm or harm to human health.”

To the home gardener and landscape designer the question is “what do I plant?” This a challenging question to many. For example, the Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) is beautiful, as is Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).  English Ivy (Hedera helix) is evergreen and  an immediate "catch-all" answer to climb walls and provide groundcover.  A Norway Maple (Acer platinoides) and Tree of Heaven (Alanthus altissima) are lovely shade trees, brought to this country after several blights virtually eliminated other species,...but now they has been outlawed to plant in most states.  Many people would rather have an invasive that survives regardless of the soil type; irrigation and care provided them, not to mention the fact that to some extent they are exempt from most insect damage.

There’s appears to be an evolving and multi-layered discussion/debate among academia on what plants that we as caretakers of the planet and home gardeners should plant.  For years we have planted in the United States exotic species following in the steps of the English, for whom plant collection, gardening and horticulture is a national religion or obsession (dependent on who one speaks to), influenced by nursery catalogs, books and television shows. In the next few blog posts I aim to explore this subject.  I see this as more than a simple question of personal choice but one that has far-reaching ramifications with integral ethical and moral dilemmas.