- Wild Ones
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The following guidelines are intended to assist Wild Ones® members and others
in their natural landscaping efforts. They were developed by a committee of
national board members and others who read widely in the scientific literature
and consulted with experts. While there is ongoing debate within the restoration
community concerning the issues below, we offer the following guidelines with
the hope that they will help make our natural landscapes places of health,
diversity and ecological integrity.
WILD ONES NATURAL LANDSCAPERS ADVOCATES THE SELECTION OF PLANTS AND SEEDS
DERIVED, INSOFAR AS IS POSSIBLE, FROM LOCAL OR REGIONAL SOURCES AT SITES HAVING
THE SAME OR SIMILAR ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS AS THE SITE OF PLANTING. SUCH PLANT
MATERIAL IS OFTEN TERMED THE LOCAL ECOTYPE.
- Environmental Conditions: These include everything from soil, climate,
elevation, drainage, aspect (such as North/South slope), sun/shade,
- Local or Regional Sources: Plant material that originates in and is native
to your geographic region is generally the best to use. These regions have
ecological, not political boundaries, i.e. it is better to use a source from
your geographic region but outside your state than to use a source from a
different geographic region inside your state. Such regions are often referred
to as ecoregions by scientists. The ecoregions within the US are best
delineated by The
Nature Conservancy in the US and the Conservation Data Centres in Canada.
(Maps of the ecoregions can be obtained from these groups; a copy of each set
of maps is in the Wild Ones library.)
Why Choose Local Ecotypes:
You can help preserve the local
ecotypes in your area by using them in your landscaping. There can also be
significant genetic variation within an ecotype in terms of form, size, growth
rate, flowering, pest resistance, etc. You can help preserve this gene pool by
asking for seedling stock,
- To insure the greatest success in your landscaping efforts.
In general, the more closely you match the environmental conditions of the
source of your plant material to that of the planting site, the better it will
grow. Studies show that this is because species have become genetically
adapted to the local conditions to varying degrees -- some species more than
others. Since there is little species specific information, it is best to take
a conservative approach so plantings will do better both in the short term and
in the long term.
*Example: A red maple from the deep south will not do well in the north.
Also, a red maple from a lowland will not do well if transplanted to an
adjacent upland site.
*Exception: Threatened and endangered species which have reduced genetic
variability, may need an infusion of genetic variability from plants from
other, maybe distant locales, in order to insure their survival over the long
term. Work with such species should be conducted under the supervision of the
state and federal agencies which have jurisdiction over them.
- To help preserve local pollinators, insects, birds, and mammals, and other
wildlife which have co-evolved with plants of local ecotype and depend upon
them for food, shelter, etc.
- To preserve the genetic diversity and integrity of native plants.
An all-important concern today is the preservation not only of a diversity
of species, but also of the genetic diversity within each species. A native
species varies genetically in its adaptation to the particular localities and
environmental conditions under which it grows. This results in a number of
ecotypes of the same species or gradations (clines) between populations. not
clonal stock or cultivars.
How to Find Your Local Ecotypes:
To prevent the local extinction of native plants, plants should be bought
from reputable nurseries, not dug from natural areas.
Where to Buy:
- Exception: Plants rescued from a site slated for immediate development.
(However, every effort should be made to save such sites whenever possible.)
A list of nurseries carrying native plants of local ecotypes can often be
obtained from local nature centers, from state natural resource departments,
from local Wild Ones chapters or from native plant organizations. Nature centers
or nurseries dealing exclusively with native plants are more apt to have stock
of local ecotypes.
- Ask the nursery about the source of their plant material. Does it
originate within your ecoregion?
- Beware of plant material dug from the wild or plants which are "nursery
grown" in pots after being dug from the wild. Plants should instead be
"nursery propagated" from seed or cuttings, not collected from the wild. It is
environmentally unethical and contrary to the mission of Wild Ones to buy
plants dug from our last remaining natural areas in order to naturalize your
- Ask for seedling stock, not clonal stock, cultivars or horticulturally
enhanced plants. Clonal stock, cultivars and horticulturally enhanced
varieties lack genetic variation. They are usually selected for bigger,
showier flowers or more sturdy stems and this goal of aesthetic uniformity is
at the expense of genetic diversity. Cultivars and horticulturally enhanced
varieties are often propagated asexually and thus are clones rather than
unique, genetic individuals. (A variety of an individual species can be a
naturally occurring variety or a horticulturally produced variety.) Check with
local lists of native plants to see if the varieties are native locally or
When collecting seeds, collect from many individual plants from within the
same ecotype of each species (rather than taking seeds only from the biggest
plant, for example), and do not take all the seeds from any plant. This will
help preserve and increase the genetic variation of the population. Also, be
sure to get permission for seed collecting; it is not allowed in some natural
Document Your Project:
Keep records of the origins of the plant material you use. This is
particularly important for large scale restorations, especially if they are at
nature centers or other places of education. Detailed records on sources of
plants used can help us understand their success or failure and adapt our plant
selection strategies, as needed. This may become increasingly important given
the changes in climate expected with global warming.
This guideline has been drafted by the Local Ecotype Committee: Pat Armstrong,
Lorraine Johnson, Chistine Taliga, and Portia Brown, with final revisions made
by committee chair, Mariette Nowak, August 7, 2001 and revised March 19, 2002.
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