Natives: Is there a limit to their benefit?

Many local garden centers and landscape companies have been pushing the benefits of using native plants. These advocates range from encouraging higher percentages of natives in new plantings to actively removing non-native species at the other. Is there a limit to the benefits of using natives in our area? The analogous consideration: are we doing harm by removing long established non-natives?

One article at gardenrants.com asks just this question:

Fire biologist lights controlled burn

Fire biologist lights controlled burn (Photo credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region)

For the past 25 years, the native plant movement has gained ground.  Thousands of trees have been destroyed and the written plans of public land managers at the city, regional, [state of California] and federal levels have all stated their commitment to destroy nonnative trees and vegetation.

What are the costs of returning to a prior state of nature? What are the benefits? Author Mary McAllister also notes that returning to a prior state isn’t always a simple process. In the midwest:

The prairie was maintained by Native Americans by conducting annual burns which encouraged new growth, attracting the animals they hunted.  Without these annual burns, grassland and prairie succeed naturally to shrubs and slowly, over time to forest.  Ironically, native plant advocates depend upon the unnatural methods of pesticides and intentional fires to sustain the pre-European landscape of grassland.

How do you feel about native plants? Have you incorporated natives into your landscaping? Have you gone as far as to remove non-native species? Let us know.

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