Some native plants have adapted to a very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings (indigenous plant).
Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. This could be a case where a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasional wildfires, to release their seeds or to provide a fertile environment where their seedlings can become established.
Invasive and native plants
As societies move plants to new locations for cultivation as crops or ornamentals (or transport them by accident), a small percentage may become invasive species, damaging native plant communities in the introduced range. Besides ecological damage, these species can also damage agriculture, infrastructure, and cultural assets. Government agencies and environmental groups are directing increasing resources to addressing these species and their potential interactions with climate change.
SomeTemplate:Weasel-inline, however, believe that the introduction of exotic species by humans could be beneficial in the long term if it is done with an intent to blunt the effects of extinction on higher taxa (Theodoropoulos & Calkins, 1990). The rich diversity of unique species across many parts of the world exists only because bioregions are separated by barriers, particularly large rivers, seas, oceans, mountains and deserts.
Humans, migratory birds, ocean currents, etc. can introduce species that have never met in their evolutionary history, on varying time scales ranging from days to decades (Long, 1981)(Vermeij, 1991). Humans are moving species across the globe at an unprecedented rate. Those working to address invasive species view this as an increased risk. Theodoropoulos (2003) disagrees, believing that anthropogenic (human-assisted) dispersal can in no way be distinguished from natural dispersal, and in fact, this "increased rate of anthropogenic dispersal is a natural corollary of increased anthropogenic disturbance, and is not a harmful process, but a beneficial mitigation."
Native plant movement
Native plant activistsTemplate:Which? support the introduction of ecological concepts and practices by gardeners, especially in public spaces. The identification of local plant communities provides a basis for their work.
- Long, John L. 1981. Introduced birds of the world: The worldwide history, distribution and influence of birds introduced to new environments. New York, Universe Books, New York City; Sydney, Reed ISBN 0589502603
- Theodoropoulos, D. 2003. Invasion biology: Critique of a pseudoscience. Avvar Books, Blythe, CA ISBN 0-9708504-1-7
- Theodoropoulos, D. and S.L. Calkins. 1990. Natives vs. exotics: The myth of the menace. The Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds, 51: 3,91
- Vermeij, Geerat J. 1991. When biotas meet: Understanding biotic interchange. Science, 253:1099-1104 (6 September 1991) DOI: 10.1126
- "About Native Plants", from the Dorothy King Chapter of the California Native Plant Society