Thursday, September 2, 2010

St. Catherine's lace covered with honey bees
Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum covered with Apis mellifera

I couldn't believe how big this buckwheat is. The fence post in the second picture is about as tall as I am. Thanks to the organic farm's native plant restoration lady, I have a positive ID. Goodness knows I'm not good at identifying buckwheats since there are so many in CA... 269 species & varieties of Eriogonum to be exact, all native to CA with many of them limited, rare, or endangered, including St. Catherine's lace.

Calflora doesn't show this plant as being native to Santa Cruz County, but Harkins Slough is only a couple miles from the Monterey County border. However, like many other buckwheats, I suspect this one was purposely planted outside of its native range. Simply based on recent CA blog posts, the red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) seems to be very popular in gardens along the western, central to northern area of CA, yet its native range is mostly southerly Santa Barbara County and is a CNPS 1B.2 rare plant.

So, this got me asking a series of questions (as a caveat, I am not a gardener and plead ignorance)... 1) What exactly constitutes "native" in terms of gardens and nurseries? County borders? State borders? Stolen from the woods and fields nearby? 2) Where do the nurseries obtain their initial stock? 3) Like orchid collecting from the early 1900's, could the current "native garden" trendiness actually be depleting our regional, natural populations? 4) What are the long-term environmental impacts of introducing a non-regional, yet "native", plant to areas where it doesn't naturally occur? Are we inadvertently creating hybrids? Is that something we want? Is it "good" for nature? 5) How is a "native" plant planted in a garden hundreds of miles away from where it occurs naturally be somehow better and preferable than say planting something from South Africa with similar climate? Just asking.

Btw, Apis mellifera is not native to North America; I'm not sure how many people know this. Really, they're the insect version of cows, sheep, cats, and dogs. It makes me wonder how much we anthropomorphize the plight of the non-native honey bee.

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