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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.

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

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Wednesday - May 17, 2006

From: North of San Francisco, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Inadvisability of allowing native orchids to cross-breed
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Hello LBJ Native plants helper! This is the perfect place for me to ask a question that has been very perplexing to me. I live in Northern California and am doing research for naturalization of the terrestrial orchid Calypso bulbosa var:occidentalis in my area and around the world. The other variety that grows in the US is var:americana. I expect, in the future, I will have quantities of var:occidentalis seed available for naturalizing in Calypso habitat. My question is this-what, if any, are the things that need to be considered-environmentally and ethically before I make this seed available? The two varieties have documented crosses in British Columbia where the two habitats converge. That is, the Rocky mountain variety C. americana and the Pacific Northwest and circumboreal var:occidentalis territorys converge. Var:occidentalis is tougher and more aggressive than C. americana but they do cross in nature. As a native plant expert I am certain you favor naturalization and dispersal of this orchid, but, what are the limits of good sense on this one?

ANSWER:

I do not think we would endorse distributing var. occidentalis beyond its natural range if there is the potential of increasing its contact with with var. americana. If they are capable of crossing when they are proximity to one another, enhancing gene flow between these two varieties by dispersing var. occidentalis in areas where var. americana occurs would homogenize the genetic differences that make each variety unique.

 

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