Friday, August 24, 2012

What Is A Native Plant?

I read something recently in which the writer stated that "nothing from the East and nothing from Europe will grow here;  we should grow natives like lavender and daylilies".  I realized that there is still a lot of confusion about what exactly a native plant is . . .and isn't.  Also, there is a misconception that only natives can be waterwise or drought-tolerant.  Let's see if we can straighten some of this out.

A native plant is a plant that is endemic and/or indigenous to a given region during a specified period of geologic time.
- Some plants are found only in the Wasatch Mountains
- Some plants are found only in the Four Corners region, or the Great Basin
- Some plants are found all over the Western US, Canada and Mexico
- Some plants are found all over the Great Plains and sometimes in the Southwest
- on and on, you get the point

There are many plants native to other places in the world (where the climate is similar to that of Utah) which can be grown here easily.  A good example is lavender, native to Southern Europe, Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Southwestern Asia and India (not the Americas).  Another example of a non-native that does well here is the daylily, native to Eurasia, China, Korea and Japan.  There are hundreds of others.

As Utah gardeners move toward using less water in their landscapes, a basic understanding of waterwise, drought- tolerant, native and non-native plants will be increasingly helpful.  The species and varieties of plants that will thrive in Utah are abounding, both native and non-native.  The possible combinations (based on similar needs) for design and beauty are endless!
Utah Native, Wasatch Penstemon - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Daylily - Catherine Woodbury - Sandy, Utah

Lavender - Salt Lake City

Utah Native, Fireweed - Alta, Utah

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