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Is it Native? Part 2 – Nativars “Nativar”

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

Most gardeners have probably never heard that term. Nativars are native plant hybrids that have been bred for certain characteristics such as disease resistance, flower color/shape, or fruit size/flavor.

Sometimes this is a really great thing, as with the case of the American Elm. New nativars are being bred to be resistant to Dutch elm disease, which has dessimated the population of the American Elm. Sometimes nativars are even better at attracting and feeding pollinators than the original plant.

But sometimes nativars are not so great. Sometimes their new features come at a cost. They may lose the ability to produce seeds that feed birds, new flower shapes may prevent insect pollination, or new leaf colors may not be pallatible to caterpillars. Also, most of these plants are propagated by rooted cuttings, which makes them clones of each other. This eliminates genetic diversity in the plant population.

Nativars can be a beautiful addition to your garden, but they do have their drawbacks from a wildlife perspective. Feel free to use them, but if you are planning your garden for pollinators and wildlife, choose wisely when using them as a substitute for a native plant. How can you tell when you’re at the garden center? One clue is the plant name. A great example is the classic coneflower – Echinacea purpurea. That’s it. If the plant name has something fancy added to it – in this case Echinacea purpurea “”Magnus”” – that tells you that it’s a nativar.”

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