Native plants are plants that grow naturally in the wild without human interference. What about provenance, though?
The term “provenance” refers to a plant population with a local genetic variation. So, a native plant population naturally growing in a specific location develops provenance.
As wildlife-preferred tree specialists, we always prefer locally grown trees and bushes to ensure the success of your wildlife habitat.
What Is Plant Provenance?
Have you ever noticed how a plant can grow in several different hardiness zones? For example, the Northern Red Oak grows in zones 3 to 8, which basically includes the whole of the United States.
Just because it’s the same tree, however, doesn’t mean there are no differences between Northern Red Oaks growing in various places. For instance, a Northern Red Oak growing in Texas will have adjusted to the local climate and soil conditions and will grow differently compared to a Northern Red Oak growing in Massachusetts.
While Northern Red Oaks are native to our country, they adapt to local conditions. If you are in Texas, you should prefer a Northern Red Oak grown locally in Texas rather than one grown in Washington, even though oak trees grow happily in both states. This is where provenance comes in.
Plant provenance develops naturally over time when a native plant grows its population in a given location.
Local provenance refers to plants grown from seeds collected in the area, from local plants growing under the same conditions and in similar soil. The genetic material of the parent plant is passed on to the offspring. The seedling then has a higher chance of surviving and thriving in its local location, just like its parents did.
What does local mean in this context, though?
Determining Local Provenance in Your Area
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine what precisely local provenance means. Local provenance refers to the specific soil, rainfall, wind, and temperature conditions over an area. The extent of the area varies because these conditions can change wildly from one year to the next. Also, conditions in an area typically blend gently with those in the surrounding areas, so it can be next to impossible to identify a single cutoff point.
As a result, it can be challenging to determine local provenance in an area in a precise way.
That’s why you should trust local nursery and plant specialists such as Wildtree.co. We will provide you with all the information you need concerning the provenance of your trees and plants. We can even help you determine how well-adapted your vegetation is to your local area.
Why Does Provenance Matter?
Plant provenance matters a lot if you want your land to be prosperous. Plants grown locally will grow more quickly and find it easier to fend off pests, diseases, and weeds that may hinder a non-native plant’s growth.
Local Plants Grow Better
Local plants will grow better by developing the proper survival mechanisms for local conditions. Specifically, they will have adapted to local soil, rainfall, wind, and temperature conditions and will pass on this genetic “knowledge” through their seeds to their offspring.
If you want your deer-preferred orchard to thrive, you should opt for local native plants. They will have higher chances of survival. Also, you will only have to plant them once, safe in the knowledge that the trees and bushes you have planted will grow and deliver bountiful crops for deer to eat.
Better Pest and Disease Control
We live in an interconnected world. This can be a wonderful thing—but also a dangerous one. In one well-known example, a pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum was discovered in European nurseries in the mid-1990s. It swiftly spread to British gardens and woods and somehow found its way to wildland trees, most notably in the United Kingdom.
In 2001, nursery plants in Santa Cruz County, California, were identified as carrying the pathogen. At first, the damage was contained. In 2004, however, some large West Coast nurseries shipped over a million rhododendrons and camellias throughout much of the US. Pretty soon, P. Ramorum was detected in 176 nurseries in 21 states.
Soon afterward, P. Ramorum was identified as the cause of Sudden Oak Death—a forest disease that has killed several tree species in California and Oregon forests. It also results in the so-called Ramorum blight. Several plants in forests and nurseries have been affected.
This is hardly a unique case. It is sad that a plant introduced into a new location may bring new diseases and pests. These can wreak havoc in the new site, which is unaccustomed to such intruders.
On the other hand, local cultivars have already developed coping mechanisms to deal with all diseases and pests they are familiar with. Through millennia of trial and error and evolutionary pressure, compounds such as flavonoids and terpenes have evolved to deter insects and diseases from attacking trees and plants. Such plant defensive mechanisms can be surprisingly effective. Nicotine, for example, is deadly to insects, often killing them within an hour—which is why gardeners have traditionally used homemade watered-down tobacco as a natural pesticide.
So, the reason why you should choose local plants is twofold. First, they are better at protecting themselves from local pests. And second, they carry no new diseases. As a result, they have higher chances of growing and thriving.
Conversely, non-local cultivars may carry diseases and pests that are difficult to deal with and could spread to the locality, thus endangering existing trees.
Local Plants Can Control Weeds
A fragile ecological balance exists between all living creatures in a given ecosystem. This is exemplified by the ways that local trees and plants have developed in order to control weeds and stop them from invading their space.
Besides chemical defense mechanisms, trees and plants employ all sorts of tricks to ensure their survival. Taller trees, for example, create shaded areas where weeds find it challenging to grow. In addition, trees sometimes work in tandem to protect each other and grow as best as possible. For instance, leaves from deciduous trees create a natural mulch layer that stops weeds from developing, thus protecting surrounding plants and trees.
Unfortunately, this balance can be easily upset by introducing a non-local species.
You Are Protecting Local Plants
When you plant local cultivars, you are propagating their genetic material. If you introduce a plant from a different region, you are introducing a slightly different genetic material—even though it concerns a member of the same species.
Through pollination, this genetic material could cross to native cultivars and weaken or alter their coping mechanisms. When this happens, trees that have adapted to local conditions may find their defensive tools challenged.
The results may range from slower growth to endangering the plants’ survival. After all, local plants have developed suitable genetic material for centuries to flourish in specific conditions, and an outsider can inadvertently threaten these features.
The Role of Plants in Ecosystems
An ecosystem combines plants and animals living harmoniously in a given geographic location.
Through hundreds or even thousands of years, they have adapted to specific weather, soil, wind, and rainfall patterns to create a balanced and stable order where plants and animals thrive together.
Provenance is essential here because it offers plants the best chance of survival. Plants growing in a specific area often develop a symbiotic relationship with animals and insects and work with them to ensure all species thrive.
Landowners looking to create a wildlife orchard to attract white-tailed deer should ensure that the plants, trees, and bushes they choose are local. This way, they will immediately settle in with the rest of the wildlife and plant material.
Providing Pollinators with Nectar for Longer
Like local plants have developed their coping mechanisms and adapted to local conditions, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators have also adjusted to local needs and learned how to work well together for everyone’s benefit.
Such pollinators go from tree to tree pollinating flowers. They know when the trees have blossomed and which flowers to visit first. They are part of a delicately balanced system, gently supporting each other.
As a result of this harmonious coexistence, a few months later, the landowner will have plenty of apples, pears, plums, and persimmons to attract deer. The more fruit you get, the higher your chances of having passing-by bucks and does stay on your land. That’s the whole purpose of creating a wildlife-preferred orchard.
Planting for Birds and Other Wildlife
Wildlife-preferred orchards aim at attracting all types of wildlife. You wish to have as many white-tailed deer as possible, but you will create a land brimming with all types of local wildlife if your orchard is planted with local provenance plants.
This is important because of mutualism—a symbiotic relationship where all species benefit from their interactions. An example of mutualism can be found in the relationship between oak trees and squirrels. Squirrels typically store acorns in the ground to use as food later on. However, some of these acorns are never retrieved. Instead, they grow and increase oak tree populations.
In many ways, the increased presence of local wildlife helps trees remain healthy. Plus, you support a delicate ecosystem, so it stays in perfect balance.
Local Natives vs. Nonlocal Natives
The United States has plenty of native plants that grow throughout our country. Trees, however, are highly adaptable and can grow in varied conditions quite happily. For example, Chickasaw Plum Trees grow equally well in New York, Texas, California, Florida, and Colorado. And yet all these states have very different soils, climates, and rainfall patterns.
If you choose to plant a New York Chickasaw Plum Tree specimen in Texas, the tree might struggle, even if it grows successfully in both states. New York has a harsher, wetter climate than Texas, and the Plum tree will mature at different times in these two states. In addition, your New York Chickasaw Plum Tree may yield a different crop than you would expect when planted in Texas. Even worse, it could be exposed to insects and pests it has never had to deal with in New York.
On the other hand, a Texan Chickasaw Plum Tree will be perfectly adapted to local conditions and give deer plenty of plums to nibble at in early summer.
How to Obtain the Best Native Plants
Local provenance trees maintain local biodiversity and the genetic material of plants. They support wildlife better and are more productive. They have the right genetic makeup to flourish in their locality and for a specific landscape.
Creating a wildlife-preferred orchard takes time, effort, and money. If you want your orchard to be successful from the start, you should opt for local provenance plants.
Even the smallest variations have developed to give a plant a specific advantage. For example, foliage differences can be subtle and yet important, with foliage color and size varying even between neighboring trees. Such features have developed to attract local pollinators or to deter local pests.
Berry size and color also differ as these features grew over time to adjust to specific conditions, such as local birds and climate. As a result, a mulberry tree in Texas will be different from a mulberry tree in Kentucky.
The best way to obtain local provenance plants is to look for plants grown from seeds from local healthy plants, growing in similar conditions. This is the perfect start to your wildlife-preferred orchard—and Wildtree.co is your trusted partner.
We offer free shipping on all orders and a 10% discount on orders over $1,000. Get 40% off when you pick up your order. Call us now on 832-400-5978 or contact Wildtree online to obtain the best provenance plants for your area and get started on your deer project!