En EspaŅol

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
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

Invasive silverleaf nightshade in Plainwell MI
June 27, 2010 - Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. Silverleaf nightshade, Silver-leaf nightshade, White horse nettle. We purchased our land and built here 3 years ago. I have these all over my 30 acres of land including ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native ligustrum in non-native fescue in Medina TX
May 22, 2013 - Is there an effective way to kill baby ligustrums coming up in my fescue yard without harming the grass?
view the full question and answer

Eliminating bamboo in Austin
December 07, 2009 - Everyone should be warned about bamboo and how invasive it is. My neighbor planted it in his back yard and it's now taking over my back yard and all the surrounding yards. He installed a barrier but ...
view the full question and answer

Killing mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with propane torch
January 14, 2010 - Can I kill mesquite with intense fire, such as a 1.2 million BTU propane torch? I know mesquite bounces back from cutting at the soil line. The trees are in Elgin. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Removal of non-native invasive Ligustrum japonica from Austin
February 14, 2012 - I bought a house that I am slowly turning into a native garden, but as a teacher, I have a really small budget. One entire border of my backyard (30 feet) was planted with evil Ligustrum japonica. I l...
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