The popular trend seems to be to favour indigenous plants and tearing out all exotics. There is almost a superior sense of righteousness expressed to those lower mortals who do not give over their land completely to this worthy cause. I find it sadly short-sighted. I understand that the motivation is to help the earth, but little is really achieved toward such an admirable goal.
I ask myself: This all sounds pretty good in casual social banter, but is this truly ecologically sound? A landscape filled with wild plants that give no human food makes the landowner dependant on the farmer who has no such ideals of natural and indigenous planting. If we are not feeding ourselves as much as possible we are feeding into a system of agri-business that is destroying land and soil structure in rapacious greed that balances inputs and outputs with short-term cash flow objectives alone. We could always buy from the organic market, it is said. But how many do? Personally, the travelling involved rather defeats the purpose.
How many locally indigenous plants will feed us? We are most often fed by exotics. We need to expand our vision to a wider perspective: How do we reduce pressure on planet wellness?
I believe we should create natural habitats tweaked with enough exotics as food for the landowner to sustain himself as far as possible. If enough people do this it will reduce the demand on agri-business products and thereby decrease land for this kind of use. This now is something to feel good about. A feel good that is more sensible in terms of effective return.
I often hear it said that exotics just take over. In an ecologically balanced environment they do not. They take hold where land has been disturbed and new sun-filled edge created, and where nature strives to use pioneer plants to cover the bare earth as fast as possible. Nature will use whatever is available; whatever will grow fastest without deterrents. These will be exotics if the seed bank of the soil has such seed available. There are not the usual checks and balances in terms of pests, etc. to keep such plants in check. Get ahead in the game and plant - in co-operation with nature - a mix of plantings that are not invasive but will crowd out weeds and exotics, and you will watch with each succession more and more balance returned to the disturbed landscape. The key is balance: increase yield while preserving natural habitat by creating a landscape that works just the way nature does.
Plant exotics that feed us, within a diversity of multi-level natives, and you will have created something that is truly adding wellness to the earth; you will be partaking in the age old joy of abundant food produced with care and understanding.
Until next time,