Does it matter where my seed or plant comes from?

single plants of yellow ray flowers on beige rock covered with orange lichenIn a recent blog on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens I discussed and questioned the use of  locally sourced native plant materials.  As often happens with the process of blogging, I have been thinking a lot more about it since.

In revegetation work, using only locally sourced plant materials makes a lot of sense since reestablishment of a plant community requires using the plant community that exists as much as possible.  Revegetation work that utilizes plant material from different sites brings with it the dangers of:prairie grassland with yellow and white wildflowers

  • potential invasiveness
  • lack of usefulness to fauna and pollinators of many
  • plants may fail to thrive
  • destruction of homogeneity of a landscape

But in home gardens and landscapes, does it matter?  Won’t plants that fit the ‘right plant, right place’ concept work?  If a plant thrives in my garden but is not local, isn’t that ok?

dense Sonoran desert vegetation with senita cactus in foregroundYes, I know, I’ve been a proponent of local provenance for as long as I’ve been in the business of native plants, so am I changing my mind?  Maybe I’m losing it.  Seriously, I’m just wondering.  As climate changes and plants and animals with it, shouldn’t we be using plants from further south that will work in our hotter, drier climate?  Perhaps.


There are certainly a number of good reasons for using plants and seeds from local sources.  Among them are the facts that local plants:


  • are not invasivebutterfly-on-thistle
  • are adapted to local pollinators and fauna
  • have evolved better survival mechanisms to thrive locally
  • maintain healthy populations of local plant and pollinator species
  • have genetic variations that help populations adapt to local conditions
  • contribute to a sense of place
  • create plant communities with distinctive characters.
  • provide ecological balance between the plants and local native animals, insects and micro-organisms with which they have evolved
  • help maintain balanced populations of predators and parasites that minimize the need for outside pest and disease control
several stems of scarlet tubular flowers on green stems

Firecracker Penstemon

I continue to believe we should use native plants with local provenance whenever feasible, but I think there is a place for the occasional use of native plants from similar ecosystems that will thrive in our gardens.   Creating biodiversity in our home landscapes     is a good thing and using Utah penstemons in my garden might not be such a bad thing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.