The Difference Between Native Plants, Cultivars and Nativars

Understanding what makes native plants different from nativars and cultivars is important for understanding why they are important for pollinators & wildlife.

The Difference Between Native Plants, Cultivars and Nativars

Native plants are those that occur naturally in a given place or region, while cultivars are plants developed by a plant breeder and would never be found in the wild. Nativars are a combination of the words native and cultivar. Understanding the differences between these three terms is important for understanding why native plants are important, and how they can benefit pollinators and wildlife. Native plants have functional reproductive structures and viable seeds, while non-native animals, including natives and cultivars, are generally raised to obtain the specific characteristics desired.

In the process of selecting specific traits, other traits can be deselected and vanished from a plant in the nursery market, which can result in the loss of genetic diversity of plants available for purchase for gardening or other purposes. For example, the nine-bark native “Summer Wine” with dark foliage may not be as nutritious as the foliage of the straight bark-nine species, Physocarpus opulifolius. Many natives have been bred to have more petals and very small floral reproductive structures than their native counterparts, with less or perhaps no nectar or pollen for pollinating insects, or seeds for songbirds. Insects can be attracted to plants like this and use the energy that travels to land on the flowers of this cultivar, when in reality their flowers can offer little or no food source.

Other natives are raised for the color of the petals, which differs greatly from the color of the flower in native species and can confuse insects and other wild animals that depend on them. In other cases, natives can provide as much food and nutrition to insects and other wild animals as native species or more. For example, a local ecotype of redbud from Wisconsin was converted to a cultivated with a name called “Columbus strain” (redbud). It is cold-resistant and has been planted beyond the typical redbud range in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. This red bud provides nectar and pollen to pollinating insects, and its foliage is likely to be food for insects as well. However, it is also true that the proliferation of the use of natives like this throughout the native range of native redbud species can cause a loss of genetic diversity of red buds in the landscape, which can have negative consequences for nature's food network.

Tallamy underlines this again when he states: “The problem is not the presence of cultivars, but the absence of natives.”Comparisons of natives and natives for green infrastructure (erosion control, filtration and infiltration) Comparisons of natives and natives for carbon sequestration can also be made. A native can be a hybrid of two or more plants selected to reproduce or a clone of a particularly desirable wild plant. Clones are created through plant cuttings and are genetically identical to their parent plant. Nativar is a word that results from the combination of the words native and cultivate. It has the good quality of being shorter than the “cultivar” of a native plant.

However, the inclusion of the full sound of the word “native” gives the impression that they are good ecological substitutes for native plants. Although they are marketed regionally as native plants, they are sold around the world. Greenscape's extensive collection of straight native species occupies its own greenhouse area, separate from all other plants in the IGC. The American chestnut tree is an example of cultivar development that is sensitive and, in fact, oriented to the benefits of native plants and natural areas. No plant cultivars native to the Mid-Atlantic have been tested to determine the impact of cross-pollination on wild populations or their pollinators. A decade has passed since Allan Armitage coined the term “nativar” to refer to cultivated varieties of native plants. However, if that cultivar becomes dominant in the market and in landscaping, the genetic traits “superior to nectar” of this plant will disappear from the plants in cultivation.

In their early years, some native plant purists appropriated the label as a way to distinguish cultivars from what they considered most valuable “true natives”. Because these plant species evolved along with native pollinators, it makes sense that they would prefer native plants. When you start buying plants this spring, emphasize regional native plants that support your local ecosystem. At Greenscape, Schamber expects interest in ecology, natives and natives to continue to grow, driven by consumer advocates from all age groups.

At the same time, the connection with natives is driving new and impressive presentations that offer plant lovers the best of native and ornamental plants combined.

Lynda Flowers
Lynda Flowers

Infuriatingly humble bacon maven. Extreme beer fanatic. Professional web ninja. Certified social media guru. Professional tv evangelist. Lifelong food advocate.

Leave a Comment

All fileds with * are required