Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Negative and positive effects of invasive dandelions from Rama Ontario
January 12, 2012 - How do Dandelions have a negative impact of being a invasive and a Positive impact of being a invasive species ?
view the full question and answer

Is conium maculatum safe for cataracts from Wewoka OK
September 12, 2009 - My doctor has prescribed conium maculatum for my cataract problems. Is this safe to use in the eyes?
view the full question and answer

Invasiveness of wild petunia in Austin
June 15, 2008 - Is the wild petunia in the data base as invasive/aggressive as the more common ruellia? In other words, will it pop up everywhere? Ruellia nudiflora (Engelm. & Gray) Urban Common wild petunia, Vi...
view the full question and answer

When to plant non-native red-tip photinia
November 17, 2011 - When do you plant the Red-Tip Photinia Flowering Shrubs in Roanoke VA?
view the full question and answer

Determining whether a wisteria is native in Katy TX
July 30, 2010 - If a wisteria is blooming after the leaves are out (there are a couple of blooms right now, in July), is it a sure sign that this is a native Texas wisteria?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.