Restoration essay poem

This is a long form summary of a much distilled lecture titled ‘Restoration of the native landscape’ that concludes our discussion of design as applied to wild lands and open spaces. Due to the subject matter and our limited vocabulary, you may find parts of it opinionated, soap boxy, and maybe even offensive if separated from the rest of the passages, or if read in a flat out literal fashion without the subtle nuances of understanding the mild efforts at humor. My apologies for that at the get go. The goal is that you will gain knowledge in the local flora and fauna, go native, and be able to apply observation and ecological principles in restoring the lost connections to the universe in your practical design work. G luck.

What is native?
Well theres native peoples, heres a map of em all over the state
from back in the day
once upon a time
they walked here from all over the place
from the north and south, east and perhaps west too
(that might have been on a boat then)
they too at one point were travelers and wanderers, migrants of sorts
before they came to this place currently known as California, USA
they settled in a valley, a desert or a stretch of foothills from grasslands to mountains
no they did not have a deed, nor did they stay in a permanent immovable shelter year round
no there were no lines drawn on a map to indicate where one tribe started and the next began
this is before courts, governments, countries, and taxes
at this time, there were no fences, walls, or paved asphalt roads
there were no horses or wheels, cars and trains
people got their food from the bush, the woods, or from the waters,
not from the store
and it was shared
you fought with clubs and spears,
there were no armies, police, or mercenaries to defend you,
no tactical technology and gear
you died early, compared to how old people live today,
death from infection, snake bite, cliff fall, arrow, etc.
in a way, it was pretty harsh and difficult, survival was a challenge
and you had to take full responsibility
from another perspective, you were free,
and lived in the moment
had no choice

Due to the geography, the abundant food, mild climate, and for the most part
mellow and peaceable nature of the peoples
there was a huge diversity of lifestyles,
plus great reverence and awe for the earth and sky
this was true for all the dwellers – from wooded forests to coastal islands
they possessed culture and languages that persisted in time, grew with the years
lasted over five, ten, fifteen or more, thousands of years,
that is a long time, lotta moons and cycles
a long time being ‘sustainable’
really cool

Not that many natives of that time went to the sea
have you been in the Pacific Ocean out offshore lately?
it can be pretty hectic and scary
waves and currents, cold water,
and of course dun dun dun dun dun dun triangular dorsal fins
some natives did though, the ones way up north with
access to rot proof, straight grained, redwood timbers
access to tools and know how
and informed by heavily stratified, hierarchical societies of
big chiefs, commoners and slaves too
then there was a long stretch of the central coast where people got their food in the intertidal zone or inland
but they did not venture out towards the horizon of the setting sun
that is, until we come to the Chumash of So Cal Santa Barbara and Ventura
who scavenged the drifted redwoods logs on the beach
tied em together with sinew, sealed em with the tar pitch oozing up out of the ground
and went to the Channel islands, up and down the coast
to go fishing, exploring, adventuring
real neat boats

In places closer to our home
San Francisco Bay
the waters were still sketchy, you could drown and capsize
but if you timed it right,
you could go to the lakeshore
cut a fat stack of tule reeds with an obsidian knife
cinch em tight with milkweed or nettle fibers
and take the family across the water to see your cousins
over in ‘Fremont’ or ‘Berkeley’
where the huge acorns are thick for the picking under the oaks
and a dance is happening, with gambling and smokes too as the night drags on

Thus, in terms of the apogee or climax or pinnacle of the tribes
technology and science wise
there were many ‘tops’ or ‘number ones’ to choose from
we have our nuclear power, rockets,
robots and artificial intelligence
their evolution selected for things more natural and a little bit more grounded
their highest advancement could be the short, sinew backed, yew bows of the north
or the intimate knowledge of the comings and goings of plants and animals over the course of the year
above all else though was the basket
gathered patiently from trees, sedges, grasses and herbs
processed meticulously with teeth and shell edges
dyed with mud and bark
and then of course woven in a spiral, twined and coiled
embellished with bits of abalone or quail
a complete representation of all that was good and important to the culture
and it was useful too
for gathering seeds and fruits, precious keepsakes and memories
nice patterns, amazing designs

On the central coast where pump jacks are bobbin up and down
oil rich petroleum land
sticky tar rolls along the sands, and La Brea Tar Pits be seeping
the natives used the bitumen to coat the insides of baskets
waterproofing! kinda like an old time plastic bucket in a way
for carrying water

Up north by Lassen county that a ways
lives a tribe known as the Yana
an old timer was found there at the turn of the century, early 1900’s,
by ranchers and farmers who could not believe that a wild ‘injun’ still existed at that time
after all that westward expansion
after all the gold rushing
after all the repeating firearms and lead
wonder what thats like
to be the last one standing amongst your peoples
folks come and take all your stuff, starve ya
push you up into a dense cliff of a hide out
your grandma, cousins, mom and dad all dead and killed for souvenirs
no one to talk to, end of an era
do you become angry and bitter, vengeful and hateful?
or do you behave like the creeks and dogwoods, clouds and sky
calm and dignified, humble and kind
abundant in respect till the end
older timer

in northern California
between the Spaniards looking for good pasture, gold and converts
coming from the south,
the Mexicans with their ranchos and herds of cattle
and the Russians with a taste for otter skins and beaver,
coming down from the north
here and there they missed some patches of territory, did not totally overrun it
there in what we call Mendocino and Lake county these days
live the bands of Pomo
many Pomos died from the introduced diseases of pox and cholera
and they got enslaved
and when they fought back the army put em down
rounded em up, put em in a nice sounding place called a rancheria
well they are still weaving, gathering and sharing
doin what natives do well
driving a pick up truck, sitting under an oak tree, singing songs to the earth

Up in Northern California where the salmon and lamprey run live a bunch of folks
roughly translated as the upriver people and the downriver people
along the gravelly waters of the
Klamath river
and all the tributaries branching out of the basin
they construct elegant wood houses buried partly in the earth
places to joke and chat, sweat and banter
when it gets too stuffy, then you go for a swim in the river
take a puff on the native tobacco
then its back to the sweat lodge, then the river again in endless cycles
the culture grows out of the rings of doug firs, cedars, and redwoods
it courses through the peoples veins and drains at the edge of land and sea

In the northeast corner of the state
where glass mountains of obsidian are gathered and traded for blades and arrowheads
thats is Modoc territory
there, went down fightin – Captain Jack, Chief Kintpuash
he was hung as a war criminal
died wanting to live on land that his people have been on for thousands of years
died defending his family
died fighting back to preserve a sacred way of life
some Modocs got shipped out to the res in Oklahoma
the res being like a concentration camp for Indians from all over the place
you like – I never met you people before
are you my long lost cousins, or my enemies?
other Modocs stayed behind
chipping glass, stalking jack rabbits in the sage brush
eyeing antelope rumps and flickers of salmon fin
working at the market, squeezing fish at the hatchery
talking on the phone by the waters of the Klamath

Well this is a lecture about native plant restoration
so let’s get to it
part of the reason we have such a diversity of species and habitats
is because theres all sorts of mountain ranges in Cali
big ones along the spine border next to Nevada – the Sierras
along the coast up into the Trinities and south into Baja is the coast ranges north south
theres an east west range too right there by Los Angeles – Transverse
and theres the deserts
one is part of that big dry basin that is Nevada and Utah
another reaches southeast into Arizona and Sonora Sinaloa Mexico
the so called low desert
and lastly theres the the cooler high desert of the Mojave
all of these highs and lows create elevation and excitement
restrict the movement of rain, plants and animals alike
create microclimates of ever changing temperatures and humidities
so then with time, all these odd niches spawned variety

Look at the pine species of Cali
big and short, thick and thin, offset and symmetrical
the common planted pine around here is the
Monterey pine with three needles and wonky cones along the fire ladder of a branch
a perennial favorite is the sugar pines with the huge long and straight cones
there is prickly ponderosa and gentle jeffrey, referring to the poky points or lack thereof
and on the highest snowy mountains there you will find foxtails pines at around 12,000 feet
and the ancient relic bristlecone four thousand years old, that is a pine too

That is just pine species
what about conifers?
lotta trees
lotta love

And we have two species of peonies too
what?! peonies?! no way
is true

And mariposa lilies
like this one found here in San Francisco
living on neglected forgotten serpentine rocks
not super abundant, but not extinct either

And columbines
this one was found
next to the dinky lil creek in Glen Canyon Park
the water and watershed drain out to Third Street and the bay
the creek is not capped, not piped, not buried, hardly forgotten
it still flows, albeit just a trickle most years

And this oddity of a vine called Dutchman’ pipe
with the heart shaped leaves
is the larval host plant for the pipevine swallowtail
meaning mom lays its eggs on the plant, and on no other
and the caterpillars feed on this plant, and no other

In this case, the pipevine was planted, and they came
the butterflies that is
and if you go to the local botanical garden about now,
spring going into summer
you will see them gliding about majestically
doing their thing as they have done, for the last
one hundred or two hundred million years or so, plus or minus

Alright, back to human history
otherwise you will not see the long view
or be able to interpret the patterns today
in a sensible manner
here come the Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and what we call colonialism –
sailing the seas, conquering new lands,
making money for the monarchy, for the crown
sending the riches back to the king and queen on wooden sailing ships

So you take some people who have been fighting for two or three thousand years or more
engaged in endless battles, military might, marriages of alliance,
the process has bred treacherous poisoners, backstabbing counselors, and no good traitors
you got people accustomed to flags drums and horns,
slaughters and desertions,
artillery, cavalry and warships
honing their battle mettle with steel armor, guns and cannons, strategies and tactics
load them with another ten thousand years of trained and domesticated animals that are docile and obey
and furthermore inoculate them with resistance to dozens of gnarly diseases
diseases that were spawned in crowded tenements, rat infested ghettos,
dirty streams and shady harbors

diseases that evolved in the close and intimate cavorting between humans and animals
set them loose on a continent of peoples in a wide open country
peoples not used to such circumstances and ways of living
what’s gonna happen?
who’s gonna win?
if you were a gambling person, what are the odds?

if you were here, meeting the newcomers that came in on tall ships
gleaming metal clothes with shining blades
what would you do?
attack them and die a warrior? no matter the price?
be friendly and give them food, trade them for new things?
make alliances with them so that they will help wipe out your pesky neighboring tribe?
lay down, hands up, give up, do whatever they say?
no easy answers
no choice but to go forward
sometimes ideas of right and wrong go out the window
and its about survival pure and simple

Time passed
the natives became nice civilized farmers and ranchers, blacksmiths and carpenters
they became Christians and got baptized,
they settled in prosperous villages
they were always polite and cordial,
bowing their heads to the king or the duke or the governor as they passed in a wagon
sort of, not really
that is the ideal vision, not the reality
well if you did not obey the rules and follow suit,
you might end up a runaway in the hills, starved,
or captured and beaten,
end up in the happy hunting ground, so to speak, getting eaten by worms in the dirt
if you were well organized though, numerous in numbers, or strong willed,
and in a position to negotiate, intimidate, and push back some
then you were likely able to hold on to your land, language, customs, way of life
at least a little bit
adapt and survive as best as you can

In the 1820’s the Mexicans took over the reins from the Spaniards
it was a time of revolutions,
industrial revolution, American revolution,
French revolution, South America revolutions, etc
in Mexico – bye bye Spanish king, hello independence, republic, constitution
que viva!
not sure what they are teaching in schools or tiktok
but even now, folks are confused about Spaniards and Mexicans
basically they think they are the same thing
and don’t know the difference
the feeling is – ‘dark hair, speak Spanish, eat tacos’ – all the same
do they think English and Americans are the same??
they probably don’t know the difference between soccer and football,
American football and rugby
what?! it’s not all the same game?! it’s all played with the feet and a pointed ball right?!
moreover they don’t know that America is named after an Italian named Amerigo
what? you mean like Godfather and Marco Polo?! no way! Italian? not English?
or that Anglos and Saxons come from Angles and Saxony in Germany
you mean the English come, in part, from the Germans?!
or that Ireland was the first English colony
colonialism – that is a white vs black and brown thing, isn’t it?!
and so on

So the Spaniards and Portuguese came here to the ‘Americas’
with time, through brute force or gentle persuasion
they spawned with the locals
there was then a social hierarchy
the same hierarchy that exists today
from high to low
the upper class are pure European blood, rich, and in general tall and fair skinned
lower down are mixed bloods of whites and natives
they are born in the Americas, lighter skin is favored over darker skin
and at the bottom are the natives, poor and dark, and occasionally of shorter stature

Attitudes change over time about
being native, being indigenous
early on, after conquest,
the natives were defeated
they looked up to the invaders and conquerors for their wealth and power
they submitted to the new rulers
for some,
there was self hate, self denial, days of wishing you were ‘them’
the easiest route was
assimilate! don’t speak native tongues! wear proper clothes! pray to their god!
its still kinda like that in many parts of the world

Nowadays, theres been a tiny bit of a reverse, a trend
about having pride for being oneself and recognizing your lineage
there is the discovery of healthy native foods,
revival of native music, native dances, native ceremonies,
restoration of native plants…
boo conquistadors! my true name is Tecpanecatl not Martinez,
down with the bronze statues of armed men on horses
pendulum swings back and forth
i do understand the sentiment and emotion
it is good to reconnect with ones roots
I encourage a not this or that, not easy polarity view of events
try to look forward with the eye of infinity and open mind
not backwards with a microscope, tweezers, and judgement
because it will help you to realize the complexity of nature and culture,
weave the mess of tattered threads into a tapestry
acknowledge the positive contributions of all cultures within
and make yourself whole,
make you a better restorationist, a better gardener,
make you a happier native

Did y’all know there was a war fought between America and Mexico for the territories of most of the west, plus parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming?
not too long ago that was
in this case, Mexico lost, and the rest, up to now, is history as they say
and did y’all hear about the Irish army unit in the Mexican army called San Patricios?
being that they allied with the Catholic Mexicans, rather than the Protestant Anglos
sometimes, it matters less if you win or lose
or if you pick a side based on race or color or religion or what have you
commit and go
fight hard, fight strong

Here come the settlers from the east
sea to shining sea
manifest destiny
on wagon trails through mountain passes
draining swamps, cultivating the land, making timber of forests
looking for land, for gold silver and copper – hungry
they come in waves, accompanied by the army
if you are a native – step aside, scoot along, make way, clear out
y’all a bunch of tuber digging, mush sipping,
thieving robbing, dirty uneducated,
lazy naked, promiscuous two wives three wives, feather and bone wearing
heathens who are better off dead
the newcomers were busy working hard, civilizing a wild land
they did not have time to gather the flowers, or talk to the animals
they were blind to the ecological engineering and ritual based land practices of the natives…
what they thought was a pristine land was a native’s tended garden
what they thought was uncivilized, we now call sustainable and wise development

Into the mix of natives, northern Europeans and southern Europeans,
add Africans accustomed to labor, and tolerant of heat and mosquitoes
most of them were working on plantations of cash crops
sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, rice, indigo
but some of em rode horses and rounded up cattle
okay back up again
once upon a time there were north American horses, but that was four million years ago
they disappeared and went extinct in the fossil record about 10,000 years ago
then Columbus and his crew brought horses, cattle, sheep and goats, to the Americas
also brought their forage plants called oats and rye, barley wheat and alfalfa
some horses went feral and got picked up by the natives
they really really liked em – sky dogs they called em
I know you can picture it, an Indian mounted on a horse, galloping
shootings arrows with a horn and sinew bow into a charging buffalo
teepees and families in the background,
buffalo hides being stretched, smoke fire and the smell of cooking meat
anyhow, this art of horses got passed and invented by each adapting peoples
from the Spaniards to the natives,
from the Spaniards to the Mexicans,
from the Mexicans to the Anglos and Africans
and so on
these days, heard the Brazilians are doing really good at the rodeos
givin’ the Anglos some competition and a run for the money

couple of native lessons here –
adapt to the incoming, in your fashion, make it your own
figure out what is practical and useful and keep it, discard the chaff
you are looking for what works best – in line with natural flow and rhythm,
be wary of getting caught up superimposing your own outlook onto nature
avoid that righteous idealism that is more about you, than it is about her,
‘her’ is talkin bout your mom, my mom,
everybody’s mom, earth momma mom

Up in the mountains, people looked for gold
scooping gravel and rocks into a sluice box
scouting for trapped bits in the riffles
as a result of the formation of this union we call USA
people of different backgrounds started to work together, hang out together
maybe even be friends
this would not have happened in the old times
this does not happen in a homogenous society
this does not occur in a stratified class and caste hierarchy
this happens in a mixed up, jumbled and tossed America
its alright
maybe you like it, maybe you don’t
doesn’t matter, its happening

Back to plants
botanists classify the flora of California into vegetation or plant communities
because groupings and organization help understanding
plus then you start to pay attention to soil and water, light and dark, air and flow, sun and moon
in short, the guiding forces of our planet
explore the canyons and valleys,
alpine and desert,
as a restorationist, you gotta know your plants
the only way to do so is to take a lot of walkabouts
watch the plants as they grow, set seed and then disappear or fade
gather, harvest and propagate the plants
and do this for hundreds of years, passing down what you know to the next generation
that is how you can mimic
the natives
our teachers

Of late
for the last twenty or so years
it has grown increasingly popular
to use native plants in the landscape
there are many reasons cited for why this is important:

habitat for wildlife
resistance to disease
low maintenance
minimal irrigation drought tolerant

Round here, the definition of a native plant is that it was here before Europeans arrived here
yes it is a somewhat ‘artificial’ construct
if you are a new, introduced, plant from anywhere but here, and want to be a native,
you cannot become one, no matters how hard you try
you can be naturalized over time, but you are still a non-native
if scientists are being kind and generous, they might call you a noninvasive naturalized plant,
but you are still an introduced exotic, even if you have been here for three or four hundred years
the worst is being called an invasive non native exotic,
that is a no no bad plant that spreads all over
you are evil and trying to take over!
humans then pull out the heavy equipment and death chemicals to kill you!
too bad and so sad for you

This photo comes from a landscape architecture magazine
it is Land’s End, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area,
which is part of the federal government’s National Park Service,
it is by the old Sutro bath ruins and Seal Rocks islands not far from the beach
the whole area has been restored and remodeled recently
african ice plant removed, cypress trees thinned or limbed up,
new building, parking lot, trails, and signage,
native plants planted
the students said, ‘ hey it does not look like that, they used filters and photo trickery!’
hahah, so lets go there and see what the site looks like regularly
without all that make up

It is more or less like this
big ol lupines and artemisias, coyote bush and lizard tail shrubs
with a little sweet alyssum (weedy european naturalized non native) here and there
it does look a bit overgrown and leggy
is this what they would look like, naturally? five hundred years ago??
well in the dune strand community
theres huge piles of moving sands, 20’, 50’, 100’ tall
and blistering winds blowing at you all day long like tiny silica shot
you are trying to survive in this ‘gonna get buried’ atmosphere
so you evolve some strategies
some dune plants have long running rhizomes that pop up here and there
they root readily when covered with sand
and leaf out easily wherever they are exposed
examples are dune tansy and sand verbena
another tactic is to live fast die young
grow quick, unload your seeds into the shifting sands, and kaput
that is what yellow bush lupine does
because the sands are so poor in nutrients, most plants don’t usually get very big
what you’d see ‘naturally’ are a lot of compact little plants scattered hither dither

The nursery grown, comparatively nutrient-rich potting soil housed native plant –
it grows well when planted in the easy loose sands and frequent fog climate
‘growing well’ meaning grows big, grows fast
that seems to be our criteria for success
plus they are no longer living in a world of shifting dunes
rather, they are penned in on all sides by a sidewalk, a parking lot, and a cable fence
that is why they look as they do
native plant garden, restoration site, in action

if you go south along Ocean Beach you will see more evidence of these efforts
at Fort Funston,
there is a restored hillside with chamisso lupines and indian paintbrush,
and unrestored mats and mats of hottentot fig,
waiting for the shift to happen
their time to come
for the ‘invaders’ to be pushed back to where they belong on the compost pile

An old army airfield at Crissy Field was also restored to dune strand wetlands
this is an old rendering of what the architects envisioned
you can read all about it here:,Presidio%20for%20over%20a%20century.

We are still in the sandy dunes
I remember planting this scrap of a corner lot at Balboa and Great Highway
it was affectionately known as Parcel 4
there was one clear case of the ‘if you plant it, they will come’
in this case the plant was a dune knotweed Polygonum paronychia
and it attracted a bright metallic green halictid sweat bee,
which you don’t see regularly in an ornamental garden
but in a native dune garden, yes!

There is a kinda go-to standard book used in plant restoration circles
it is called Invasive Plants of California’s Wildlands
there is a species account of most of the really weedy things in Cali
from the brooms to eucalyptus to grasses
and it discusses the control methods for them
maybe I am prejudiced against using broad spectrum herbicides in the wildlands in large doses
but in the book, it seemed that the main consistent method of control that they recommended
was always chemicals
that was the only way to do battle against the invasion of evil plants
you cannot win the battles with just hand tools!
cause there are too many of them,
our only salvation is a sprayer or a dabber paintbrush
and modern chemical agents

Another project I was involved with was wetland restoration
this one being on the southeast side of San Francisco in the Bayview
India Basin, adjacent to Heron’s Head and the old shut down coal fired power plant
like Crissy Field, developers have plans for these previously economically depressed areas
that being new housing, shopping centers, parks, coast trails, native plants, and so on –
vibrant comfortable communities living in harmony, having fun with nature vision
anyhow, for restoration –
what we did was create a wetland by carving a sloped drain of a channel next to the bay
and then plant it with gumweed and coyote bush
they say it was some kind of mitigation, tit for tat
that some intact functioning wetland got paved or carved away,
and this was how they made up for it, by restoring one somewhere else
haven’t been back to check it out for twenty years
would like to see how the plants did, and if pickle weed and cord grass came in on their own
if the tide in fact comes in and out, and it has not silted over or filled in
want to see if what we did was part of a healing process, bring us closer to the earth
or if it was one of these common,
’pretend and shrug, dull your heart and mind, don’t know don’t care’ project that lies in a buried folder filled with two million other similar documents

Compared to the dunes, where it is easy to get almost 100% native plant cover easily
it is far more difficult to do a native plant restoration in the clay and rock packed grasslands and scrub
its harder to get your roots down, out, and hunkered
it is hotter and drier, since it is more inland and sunnier,
it is harder to ‘get established’
plus some of the plants that do live there already are kinda bossy
they are natives, but bossy and weedy natives
they look down on the wimpy, need a lot of help and attention,
restoration domesticated, not that tough garden natives
they so mean LOL

I went to study the Mission Blue butterfly on San Bruno Mountain
that is a long, too long story for here
what is relevant is that there was a plan to make butterfly habitat
to restore habitat, create new habitat of native plants for butterflies to live at
the exchange was that some ‘virgin’ habitat would be built on,
and taken away from the mission blues
I have heard this before
thing is – people like the same places on the mountain as the butterflies
they like it with a bit of a view, but not high on the windy ridges
they prefer a warm and protected spot to raise families and play in the sun
clear and calm is better than foggy and breezy
push comes to shove
who’s gonna win
the newcomers or the natives?
can you restore something that has taken thousands of years to grow and evolve?
can you restore all those interconnecting parts and lives?
can you make appear a four hundred year old manzanita?
can you abracadabra a huge patch of checkered lilies intermingled with gold backed ferns?
all of this, with projected funding for twenty years?
is there a choice here? LOL
okay, gotta start somewhere
dive in, its a start

Going back to the reasons for planting natives,
let us review the curriculum and give it some thought:

habitat for wildlife
resistance to disease
low maintenance
minimal irrigation drought tolerant

Keep in mind that i am a gardener
I love plants
I love the natives
and I love the newcomers too,
not picky
as food for thought, as a teacher,
I asked that you consider all facets of a problem
so that when you do restoration or design,
you are not working under false notions and blind assumptions
lets take a test together
with the knowledge that mother nature is not so much a teeter totter at the playground
but more of a spider’s web or mycelium network
she is sometimes temperamental, for sure she is complex
inclined towards ‘it depends, once in a while, perhaps’ decisions,
cause she considers all the angles
‘well if this then that, but if that then this other thing, and its also likely that….’ possibilities
here we go

True or false
Native plants make a site more biodiverse

??? okay so what?
is more better? is biodiversity just the number of plant species?
is the amazon jungle better than California,
cause they have 50,000 plants species versus our 8,000?
if my garden has 100 species and yours only has five, is mine better?
more ‘biodiverse’?
or, do you mean that planting natives will support other creatures as well,
like insect, reptiles and birds? more of such creatures
okay then, True
but planting a garden of any kind
makes a site more biodiverse…
once in a while I come across literature that says things like
‘exotic plants have no natural predators, and hence do not support the food web’
people who write things like that have probably never worked in a garden
come to my yard, and I can show you rhododendrons from Asia that got thrips
cabbage from Europe that got aphids
African grasses that the native gopher loves to eat
and so on
you think a moth cares one nickel or dime about some date in 1492 or 1775 or 1861 when
some human cultures met and clashed?
no, they don’t care about native this that nothing
I’m hungry!!!

True or false
Native plants make habitat for wildlife
(that is, better habitat than non natives)
this is another one of those funny questions that is more about people than plants
we only want a certain kind of wildlife, the good kind
we like little song birds, not so much crows and gulls
we like the showy butterflies, not so much dull moths and caterpillars eating our plants
we like squirrels, but we don’t like their cousins the rats and mice
we like the bees if they don’ts sting us
we don’t like wasps
we don’t like flies, or gnats, or grubs
we don’t like cockroaches, fleas, and roundworms
we like the idea of a coyote,
if its not eating my cat
we like the cuteness of the raccoon face,
as long as they are not in my house ganging up on my dog
we like the elegance of a deer –
as long as its not eating my roses and vegetables and filled with ticks!
come to think of it, I’m not sure that we want habitat or wildlife at all
not that we control the world
what?! wait, what are you saying?! that is heresy!!
we are the master race! the master species! the king of the hill!
mother nature always wins
the darn thing is
sometimes, whether your garden for them or not,
restore the habitat or not,
the wildlife come and go as they please!
guess that is what wild means?!
the good come in with the bad
in fact, its really hard to control who comes in
very frustrating!
in the garden, more than ‘plant nativity’,
if you care about nature in the least
it is the style of gardening that will ingratiate you to the locals
if you leave some dead stuff around and are not all about clean and crisp
that dead stuff ends up as nesting material and nesting cavities,
it becomes food for saprophytes, organic matter for the soil and worms
this is a good and enlightened way of gardening
if you leave some dried and brown seed heads,
that is food for seed eater birds and harvester ants alike,
and also the seeds sow themselves as next years cover of wild flowers
that is also good
if you kinda ignore some feeding damage on the leaves,
you will allow a larva to metamorphosis into a butterfly
it could turn out be a silver dotted gulf fritillary,
or a brush footed red admiral
if you leave some patches of weeds alone,
you might find hatched out of it – an american lady or a painted lady butterfly

Since we are on a roll
wouldn’t it be nice if red legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes,
grizzly bears and wooly mammoths were also restored to our city?!
???? that would be so great!
rethink the notions
how many of those animals actually want to live in a dense urban metropolis –
teaming with rodents, ravens, cars, pollution, garbage, and a million people?
consider this for awhile, become the frog… croak croak ribbit ribbit
this is why some creatures are endangered or have gone the way of dinosaurs
they evolved in a time with specific habitat needs,
relationships and linkages,
specialized just-so niches
it is not like it was
it will never go back to the way it was
we don’ really know what it was like anyways,
just got guesses and estimates,
some prints in some old rocks, and an explorers account from 1782
our memory is riddled with holes
our documents record only tiny tatters of what happened
best to go –
make something new
and be honest about it
we are going to try our best, but are making it up as we go along
nothing wrong with that…

True or False
Native plants are hardier and more resistant to disease

hardiness usually means tolerance to cold temperatures
so false, it depends on where the native plant comes from
if it is from the mountains then it can probably take it down past freezing
if it is from the coast or from down south, then it is likely not that hardy
perhaps hardiness here means the ability to take adversity?…
lets talk this through, understand its underlying message
this is saying –
if you have been here for ten thousand years, then you must be tough and strong
but what if all of the sudden,
you are exposed to diseases from abroad that you have never met before?
would you still be resistant?
or would you die right away?
are native plants like native peoples?
what are you saying?!?
what makes more sense is this –
if you are a wild plant, then you are usually tougher and more resistant to disease
‘wild’ meaning you have not been selected for by humans –
selected for dependency and constant care, fast growth and rapid production
on the other hand, ‘wild’ meaning you still have a variety of defenses that would protect you against insects or herbivores like deer or sheep
you might have irritating hairs, poky spines,
mouth gumming latex and resins, bitter nasty alkaloids,
tough fibrous unpalatable tissues, or disagreeable smells
a native wild plant can have these traits,
and an introduced wild plant can have these traits as well
native Monterey pine versus non native pine pitch canker fungus (of Mexican origin?)
who is winning?
native oak trees versus non native sudden oak death (of Asian origin?)
what’s the score?
native lupines versus non native Phytophthora species water molds (of German origin?)
who is the culprit? how is the disease spread? who do we blame?!
we have fallen down another one of these worm holes that has no exit or pull off the shelf solution
like before, its not really about native versus non native
you have to examine the specific site,
select plants based on ecological and maybe aesthetic criteria
and monitor for plant health over time
overall this is a really vague question or assertion,
followed by really unclear and ambiguous answer

True or false
Native plants are low maintenance

silly people with the ‘sit in your chair don’t go outside’ illness
lets say, yes true, natives are low maintenance
you don’t have to prune them
you don’t have to fertilize them
you don’t have to weed them
you don’t have to do anything to them
they are easy
but then if you treat them this way in a garden,
or in a restoration site,
using the ‘do very little’ approach
what do they end up looking like?
were the natives that careless?!
come to think of it,
I would like a low maintenance life style altogether
low maintenance kids
low maintenance dog
low maintenance mother in law
low maintenance fish in the aquarium
low maintenance everything
that will leave me more time to write dumb essays on the internet!
like most relationships,
you get out of it, what you put into it…
and don’t get me started here with bad sarcasm
substituting how native peoples are also so ‘low maintenance’
that is going into the hot boiling cauldron territory for sure…

True or false
Native plants need minimal irrigation

really?! this has got to be false
the yellow monkey flower, native, likes to be right next to the water
yerba mansa, native, likes the damp soil year round
wax myrtle, native, right by the lakes edge
white alder, native, riverine tree
many species of ferns, natives, always found in the shady wet
some like it wet, some like it dry
it is true that –
some natives are drought tolerant,
some non natives are drought tolerant too
chilean cactus comes to mind, as do african succulents and aussie bushes
native ain’t got nothin to do with this
it depends on where it lives, what are its preferences
what can it tolerate

This is almost the end of the line
lyrical train been chugging too many miles to count,
I’m like ‘next stop!’
just two more clarifications or anecdotes, contrary opinions, floss for discussion,
with regards to invasiveness, restoration, and nativity

Does anybody else have a problem with this idea that the plants are invading our land?
it makes so little common sense – the whole concept
the whole imagery is downright stupid
its like –
take some responsibility man!
you brought the plant here,
or was careless in transporting hitch hikers,
you planted it,
you used it for some purpose,
you keep creating the conditions that favor its survival
and now, you blame the plant
you like – you the invader, not me, not us, not my fault
where is your sense of history, of honor, of reciprocity?
you like,
they are the bad one, I am the good one
I am always the good one
I do no wrong
I’m actually the hero with the chemicals here to save the day!
this does not mean that I don’t see a lot of weeds when I go a walkabout
not at all
I am all for weeding that yellow star thistle out of the pastures
all for cuttin’ broom thickets in city parks
can pull bur clover all day long
but these plants, they are not invading
they are opportunistic, they are a pain in the butt, they are major pests
but they are not warring against us,
nor fighting to take over the sad poor helpless natives
if anything, they are our faithful followers,
they are reminders of our follies,
they are beacons of wildness in an otherwise tamed landscape
darn weeds

Do you really own the land? do you decide who really ‘belongs’ or not?
like own it enough to say ‘nobody noplant trespasses without my permission’?
no, you don’t, it all belongs to mother earth
you are a temporary care taker and steward
so do your job –
take care of the garden, work the land, be kind to all creation
stop trying to take short cuts, make excuses, disguise your words
pretend that caring for the earth is ‘a low maintenance’ activity LOL

Restore the relationship, restore the love, restore the respect
that is what restoration is about
restoring the inner and outer worlds of ones being
like we always talk about with trees
there is the visible above ground trunk branches and canopies and,
there is a mirror image reflected in the hidden underground roots
sometimes the roots reach out way further than the above ground parts
sometimes the roots of neighboring trees all work together as one
sometimes the roots also link up with the mycelium of fungus that has colonized the earth
all are balanced and mutually supporting
inner and outer, above and below,
in essence you are a tree
pay attention the the stuff not readily visible to the eye
just like that

In conclusion
I encourage everybody to go native
not meaning to disrespect the ‘native americans’ or ‘indians’ or indigenous peoples
or take away from their meager pickings,
steal another costume or ritual,
or encourage more hokey pokey faky faky –
‘let me borrow it, I’ll give it back later, promise’ stuff
rather, to go native as a state of mind, as a body of action
not native by blood, not by tribe, not by membership,
native by participation in the affairs and work,
of being a person who is native to the earth
forget what they say about humans being the problem
humans being the cancer
there being too many humans
and other such lore
none of that is helpful

Put aside the 1% vs 99% prejudice
shrug when they pit the white against the brown and black
pretend you’re asleep when they are picking teams – red or blue,
yawn when they insist you side with the blue or the white
I’ll take all three
red, white, and blue

Remember the colors in the indian basket, that harmony, that is the goal
recognize that you belong here, this is your home,
it is a sacred place
plant a garden for food or for flowers, for your family or for the birds
take a walk and say hi to everybeing you meet,
one leggeds, two leggeds, three leggeds, four leggeds, five leggeds, six leggeds, seven
one leafed, two leafed, three leafed, four leafed, five
call up your friends and family,
and gather by a lake, a stream, a meadow, a mountain peak,
have a sitdown at the beach, on the lawn, in a park
everybody bring something –
share whatever you grew, whatever you bought, whatever you have
laugh and haha,
behold the scene, feel the presence, see the beauty, bath in the joy
you are a worm, you are a rock, you are thunder and lightning,
you are the sun, you are dust, you are nothing
you are the light that is rainbows,
and you can see this reflected in everything around you
its not really that complicated
claim nativity
restoration in action
go natives!