Making Friends with the Natives

Remnant Oak Savanna, Lancaster County, NE

(In oak savanna with friends. By Robert Smith)

Melvin Gilmore was an early 20th-century botanist who catalogued native plants and the names the First Nations gave them. In 1919 he wrote:

“The people of the European race in coming to the New World have not sought to make friends of the native populations, or to make adequate use of the plants or of the animals indigenous to this continent, but rather to exterminate everything found here and to supplant it with the plants and animals to which they were accustomed at home.”

Sadly, this imperialistic and destructive trend continues to this day with the promotion of exotic trees and shrubs by public agencies and corporate interests in the so-called green industries. In fact, exotics from outside our hemisphere like sawtooth oak, mock orange, oriental honeysuckles and bittersweets, and a host of Asian maples are being promoted as “adaptive,” as though they are more adaptive than our native plants with eons of evolutionary wisdom!

To mitigate this disturbing and persistent trend, New Tree School is committed to helping plant lovers from all walks to become better friends with the natives. To cultivate deeper relationships with the rich native biota of your local ecosystem, spend time in wild nature, patronize native plant nurseries, join your local native plant society, read the Bur Oak Manifesto, and attend New Tree School!

Plant well and saunter on,

Jack Phillips