What are nativar plants? Should I use them in my garden?
“Nativar” is a term introduced several years ago by plant expert and writer Allan Armitage to indicate cultivars and hybrids of native plant species. Nativars may differ from the native species in many ways, e.g. color of the flowers, height of plant, size of flowers, scent etc. They were selected for one or more of these features for garden use. Some gardeners question whether nativars are truly native and can be considered to be suitable for growing in a "Native Plant Garden." The answer depends on whom you talk to. The New York Botanical Garden takes a flexible view and grows both native species and nativars in its Native Plant Garden.
A more important question is whether nativars are as valuable to wildlife as the native species. The answer is that some nativars are equally, or even more, useful to wildlife as the native plants, whereas others are clearly not as valuable. Double varieties are a case in point – some do not produce pollen and in others the pollen is not accessible to insects. Also, insects may not be as attracted to a flower with a different color than the native species. On the other hand, some nativars have a longer flowering period than the native species and this can be beneficial to the pollinating insect. Loss of genetic diversity among sterile cultivars is also a concern. On balance, ecologically-minded gardeners will probably want to use either kind of plant, or both, depending on their characteristics and the goal of the gardener. In his blog Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens Vincent Vizachero offers a compromise view: “My first choice will always be a locally sourced, open-pollinated, seed-grown (native species) plant. My second choice will be a cultivar that maintains the flower shape, berry size, and leaf color of the species.”
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- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service