Unfortunately many native plant populations are under daily survival pressure from development activities, a healthy horticultural industry of exotic and landscape plants and the herbicide business. Even with focused preservation efforts of groups like Native Plant Societies, The Nature Conservancy and other organizations, species of endemic plants are rapidly diminishing in numbers and geographic areas. Unfortunately extinction brings permanent loss of that we need the most and little realize why.
Human heritage has been propelled forward through the eons centered around a belief plants around us provide food, fiber and medicine. And native plants clean our air supply, remove and sequester carbon dioxide, create fresh oxygen, attenuate stormwater runoff, provide a sense of place, reduce urban heat island effect, insulate, create habitat, promote biodiversity, balance pest populations with the support of native predators, deliver medical compounds mankind has difficulty synthesizing and I could go on and on for an another entire post. Sadly, some speculate that ninety nine and nine tenths of all plants ever having lived on our tiny planet are now extinct.
Healing answers to the next great health epidemic may quietly lay within the DNA of the Smooth Coneflower, Echinacea laevigata or the Green Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia oreophila or possibly in the sap of Michaux’s Sumac, Rhus Michauxii.
Dismally though and representing only the tip of the extinction iceberg, plants like the Franklin Tree, Franklinia alatamaha or Erythroxylum echinodendron are today gone from the wild. Our lawn and hybrid happy society really does not understand what we are creating by feeding the monocultures of sometimes invasive and beautifully deceptive landscape plants.
Yet I have faith on our country.
Our ancestor founded America with a spirit of ‘can and will do’.
In the face of all odds, with many saying’ you can not’, we have become the greatest nation in the world.
Protecting native plant populations should be a task so easy accomplished then. Yet as we see more and more exotic invasive monoculture landscapes established and fewer native plants and wildflowers we know our efforts need to be redoubled.
Regulation won’t work.
This same spirit of ‘boot-strap can-do’ so typical of American commerce and capitalism decries being told what to do.
And our historical plant law is rooted in England’s concept of ‘common law’ developed during the middle ages. Under common law approaches, plants have always been considered property of the immediate property owner because they do not move about across property lines. Animals on the other hand travel through metes and bounds and therefore being considered property of the ‘crown’ are more easily offered protection by law.
Today’s Endangered Species Act reflects that same concept. In general if an endangered plant is located on a private parcel then the parcel owner may do as they please with the plant. Those same plants growing on government land are generally protected. Endangered animals though are generally protected no matter where they are.
Today’s laws are based upon on hundreds of years of precedent and cannot be easily changed. I know. I’ve worked with environmental permitting for years, including clerking for the US Fish and Wildlife Service while in law school and see how easy it is for developers to plow under threatened and endangered plant species to make way for a project.
In my opinion, time and money otherwise spent on crafting rules, regulations, lists and laws would be better spent on education.
Along with the ‘can-do’ reasoning Americans have held dear to their hearts, they-we also have for the most part listened to what may be words of wisdom for cultural and economic benefit.
Rather than tell someone they cannot plant a row of Mexican petunia we should be telling them why a hedge of Purple Coneflower and Rudbeckia will benefit their garden, food plants, water bill and home appraisal so much more.
In the past education concerning the benefits of preserving native plants and their habitat has been expensive and difficult, an effort requiring much time and money.
Today’s social media outlets opens doors of unlimited native plant education opportunities. What Carole Seville Brown is doing with this blog is a prime example where potentially millions could be reached. Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube and a host of other social networks are available at a cost limited only to time and effort of those interested in native plants.
Rather than telling the community what they should not be doing, let’s reach out and show why native wildflowers and plants benefit all in so many ways.
Teaching and leading by example can be so rewarding. Creating legislation and enforcing rules is so negative centered and laws are never permanent. Knowledge is power. Knowledge motivates and inspires. We have a once in a generation opportunity now to spread the knowledge of what our endemic and native plants and wildflowers can do for generations now and in the future.
© 2012 – 2013, Kevin Songer. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.