I’m excited to share the start of a new company that I believe will have far reaching and applicable impacts to the plant markets in the USA for years to come (cutting edge ideals that effectively lean towards the bleeding edge).
Native Roots LLC. is a company built on licensed technology from the University of Idaho, more specifically a decade of Dr. Stephen Love’s work. Dr. Stephen Love is a Professor of Horticultural Science and Community Horticulture Specialist.
The concept was formed innocently enough by Dr. Love’s interest and passion for native plants, which drove the ideas and subsequent funding for his research. He had noticed the native plants available to him in the traditional market place were not just limited in species type and quantity, but when purchased and planted were wildly unpredictable in his landscape.
This goes back to the commonly expressed sentiment about Natives being weedy in a landscape. He knew what he liked about the native plants he would encounter in the wilds of the western United States but when he tried to propagate from seed, the traits he admired would often be lost in transition from wild to urban application. As a result he embarked on a 10 year research and development project focusing on wild land collections from all over the western United States, including the hot deserts of the south to the sage step and alpine communities throughout the Rocky Mountains.
After much trial and tribulation roughly 350 species of native plants have been selected and “developed” for propagation and release into the market in 2014. Both retail and whole sale opportunities will exist depending on regional needs and interest. 10 species will be showcased in the release with 50 or so in the wings available for purchase in the inaugural year.
The showcase species include:
1. Erigeron glaucus – Seaside daisy
2. Eriogonum brevicaule – Shortstem buckwheat
3. Mirabilis multiflora – Colorado four o’clock
4. Monarda menthaefolia – Bee balm
5. Penstemon richardsonii – Richard’s penstemon
6. Penstemon stricktus – Rocky Mountain penstemon
7. Poa secunda – Big bluegrass
8. Potentilla thurberi – Scarlet cinquefoil
9. Salvia pachyphylla – Purple sage
10. Sporobolus wrightii – Big Sacaton
The genetic narrowing of these plants is what lends them to being predictable in a landscape environment. They are not hybridized plants and they certainly are not cross pollinated selections of Natives. The selections have simply been repeatedly culled and sorted for specific desirable traits.
The development process put forward several parameters but in large part those traits consistently sought out include: low seed viability (to eliminate the spread of plants from seed i.e. Yarrow, Columbine), predictable habit, consistency with color and form, and duration of bloom. All species were selected specifically to be drought tolerant and the culling process focused on the harshness of the environment as a primary function of selection. These plants were watered only enough to match the average annual precipitation for the regions from which they came.
We know that the genetic narrowing of these plants is very fragile and the potential for second or third generation plants to break out of the desired mold is highly likely. The development and selection process that has gone into this project greatly reduces the potential for damaging or polluting the Native genetics in your area.
Native Roots, LLC offers a native plant pallet that maintains habitat function and connectivity while incorporating the predictable ascetic the buying public has been programed to expect.
This post originally published by Steven Paulsen on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog and received quite a spirited response. The following is Steven’s comment in reply to readers concerns of genetic narrowing and cultivars. Read the full blog post/comments here: “Native Roots”