07 September 2006

Immigration debate

It's a native plant linkstravagana: a California biologist is facing hard time for hacking down Eucalyptus on public lands. Meanwhile, particularly delicate wild habitat in Point Reyes is threatened by massive pot plantations. In Placer County, fifty percent of new landscaping must be "native" by law. And Garden rant links to the inimitable Tony Avent's take on the subject.

I will just say that diversity means different things in different contexts. Agriculture is the greatest threat to biodiversity, but were going to have to accept the existence of the human race as a precondition to pondering these important issues. In terms of biodiversity, we should maintain as much "wild" land as possible and protect it from invasive species:* a project that does not have to conflict with the cultivation of horticultural diversity in the garden. Most of the angst is easily avoided by observing the seemingly obvious distinction between "wild" and cultivated land.

By the way, those of you who grow plants native to North America should check out the Native Plant Network propagation protocol database (via BPoD).

*Invaders can work in non-obvious ways. Some of the australian species colonizing South African fynbos grow so much faster than the natives that their fuel load accelerates the "normal" cycle of the fire regime, meaning that many of the natives do not have time to sufficiently restore their seed bank before they are burnt to a crisp. Conversely, some of the natives have adapted to the fire regime in such a way that they may be increasing "unnaturally" from this development. I'm sure there are similar dynamics in California chaparral.

3 Comments:

Blogger trey said...

I wanted to answer your comment at my blog concerning types of natives allowed in El Dorado County (not Placer County). So here it is as well as a response to Angela's comment.

mmw,

Carpenteria californica cannot be used as it is not a native of El Dorado County. The 50% of native plant that must be used have to be natives of this county. Despite the fact that Carpenteria is a great native, it does not count. To the county “native means native/indigenous/naturally growing plants of El Dorado County.”

Angela,

The rule is only for commercial landscapes now. Residential landscapes are not regulated as far as I know.

I love native plants and feel there are lot’s that could and should be planted more. My issue with this commercial landscape rule is the types of natives they are requiring. They have to be natives of this county. You can’t plant a blue flowering Ceanothus “Julia Phelps” since no blue flowering Ceanothus occurs here. It’s also a hybrid which is not allowed. They must be pure species. If you want Ceanothus there are four to choose from, Ceanothus cordulatus, Ceanothus lemmonii, Ceanothus velutinus, and Ceanothus cuneatus. While Cornflower does have many natives even they will not have many of those plants required when you need them. There are only three Arctostaphylos allowed, Arctostaphylos nevadensis x viscida, Arctostaphylos patula, and Arctostaphylos viscida. Why can’t you use Arctostaphylos “Emerald Carpet, “Dr. Hurd”, or “Howard Mc Minn”? These are great hybrids that grow better and are more available than pure species.

This is not a “for or against” native plants argument. I am o.k. with the 50% natives be used. El Dorado County just doesn’t have that many natives that have ornamental value. Why can’t we use natives from Sacramento, Amador, Placer, or other places in California that have like climates and soil conditions?

I agree with you that “All it takes is one greedy developer or one ignorant homeowner to fell that mighty tree. So your punishment is to plant some natives? Eh, I can think of much worse.” This commercial landscape rule is a way for the county to assuage its guilt over plowing under more native plants than we will ever be able to replant.

Let them plant native plants that have hybridized for better performance and aesthetics, or natives that might be from other regions of California. It would make just as much sense to divide the county into different land zones with different soils. What’s native in the dry chaparral of Cameron Park may not be native here at 2000’ elevation. So why not require site specific native replanting? The county lines are political not geographic and to hold commercial land owners to a political plant list does not make sense. Planting natives according to geographic and climatic reasons makes sense; planting according to political borders does not.

9/10/2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

Ceanothus species, in particular, cross so readily--sometimes I wonder if that genera doesn't need some thinning.

The political barriers are certainly arbitrary, at least as far as Mother Nature are concerned. Often, I think the taxonomic ones are too.

Unless someone's carried out extensive genetic testing and performed countless hyrbidization experiments, I don't know how we really know how many "species" of native Ceanothus we're truly dealing with.

And there's a question of when a species becomes "native". At what point do you draw the historical line? Trey's four natives haven't *always* been there.

And all it takes for a new Ceanothus is pollen that makes a new true-breeding plant. How do we stop that from happening?

I'm all for the preservation of rare native plants...but imo we need more realism and science, and less dogma and guilt.


It would be better to feel incentivized to plant natives rather than forced to.

9/10/2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

To further gild the lilies of absurdity mentioned by Chuck and Trey, consider again the Carpenteria, whose range must presumably have been greater at some point in climactic history, during which it could have extended into El Dorado County. Should we not re-introduce it to its ancestral homeland?

9/11/2006 11:46 AM  

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