Posted by John Murgel, Douglas County Extension
If you have not yet noticed, June is Colorado Pollinator Month! National Pollinator week kicks off next Monday. During this month and beyond, you may find yourself the recipient of a lot of different advice on how to best support pollinators in your garden. I think all of it is given with the best of intentions; differences, sometimes strong differences, exist. Truth be told, pollinator (and broader ecosystem) support by human activities is an area of active research and practical conclusions are difficult to draw. To quote Dave Armstrong, professor emeritus at CU-Boulder, “Ecology is not rocket science, it’s harder.”
Here’s a conundrum perhaps not unfamiliar to many Colorado gardeners: should I plant only natives, from local seed sources? I hear this recommendation (sometimes presented as an imperative!) frequently. Most of my garden is a mix of non-native and “native” plants. I put native in quotations because I have collected exactly ZERO of my plants from wild seed. I stand by this decision—having thousands of gardeners added to the list of seed predators seems like a great way to drive wild populations of native plants to extinction. So out the window goes “local population source” for my natives. That will lead a conscientious gardener to the risk of genetic material from my "cultivated natives" getting into the wild populations nearby, at the risk of reducing the wild population’s fitness with “weak” domesticated genes. At least there’s little risk of a non-native plant doing that!
|A mixed native and non-native planting|
|Native bee and non-native plant|