En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Reference for native critical populations from York, PA

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - May 25, 2010

From: York, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives
Title: Reference for native critical populations from York, PA
Answered by: The Smarty Plants Team

QUESTION:

I have recently read a naysayer of native gardening. He states that native garden plants usually do not have the critical population size to be self-perpetuating. He says that one could better help the environment by writing a check to the World Wildlife Fund.I would like to know if there is an easy reference for such critical population sizes. I would certainly like to give any plantings the chance to spread to nearby wild areas and roadsides. As chance would have it, we are in the process of eliminating a stand of Ailanthus and will soon have a sunny, if somewhat stony, space to fill.

ANSWER:

How many Ailanthus altissima, Ligustrum lucidum, Triadica sebifera or Melia azedarach plants does it take to create a self-perpetuating population?  Apparently, not very many, since all of these species - often planted as landscape plants - have found a way to cast off their garden shackles and invade the Texas countryside.

Just because a native plant is introduced to a garden setting does not mean that it will be henceforth isolated from others of its species.  Nearly all gardens are relatively close to wild areas of some kind.  Many gardeners are surprised to find, after planting a native in their garden, the same species already thriving in the greenbelt just behind their house.

The number of plants necessary to reach critical mass for population stability varies with species - native and non-native, as well.  Some plant species do need large populations to become self-sustaining.  But, some plants need very few plants of their own species to perpetuate themselves.  Indeed, a surprising number of native plants need only one plant of their species – themselves – to reproduce.

For lots of specific research in this area, do a Google Scholar search using the terms, “minimum viable population” and “metapopulation”.

So, yes there is good stewardship in removing non-natives and gardening with native plants.  Will you repopulate Pennsylvania with a native tree species by planting it in your back yard?  Probably not, but you certainly won’t be adding to the already burgeoning Ailanthus population either.

Contributing to the World Wildlife Fund or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are worthwhile acts.  But so is doing your bit in your own garden.

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Covering dead arborvitae with non-native ivy from Niles MI
April 14, 2013 - I have a severely thinning arborvitae hedge. It is probably too shady, but I want the privacy. I'm thinking of planting something like ivy to fill the gaps. I know it will probably kill the hedge, bu...
view the full question and answer

Controlling Straggler Daisy
July 07, 2011 - Is there a barrier I can use that will keep Straggler Daisy under control so that I will not be a problem for my neighbors?
view the full question and answer

Non-native invasive chickweed in Collegeville PA
December 31, 2011 - My problem is chickweed. I have found considerable information on how to eliminate the chickweed. My question is after following a suggested elimination process: How and when do I reseed with grass?...
view the full question and answer

Wild mustard growing in disturbed ground in Montana
August 01, 2008 - I have recently planted "plugs" of wildflowers in beds throughout my yard. Because the soil was disturbed, I now not only have some beautiful wildflowers growing, but also mustard plants growing in ...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of poison ivy
May 08, 2009 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants, Likewise I also have a shady area in my yard with overgrowth of poison ivy. It borders a small duck pond and we have a Golden Retriever. I too would like to plant soon afterward...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center