After several years working in organic agriculture and horticulture, Martin Crawford founded the Agroforestry Research Trust in the UK in 1992. Since then he has focused on researching and growing perennial food systems including forest gardens and orchards of nut trees and uncommon fruits. He runs the nursery at ART, which propagates and sells many different tree and perennial plants, and is the author of Food from Your Forest Garden, Creating a Forest Garden, and How to Grow Perennial Vegetables.
A common rallying cry of environmentalists these days is the danger of invasive species and the primacy of native ones. Especially in terms of the plant world, it's easy to get a group of nature lovers worked up over an infestation of Japanese Knotweed or Garlic Mustard (one ingenious way to deal with the former is to eat it! And to help you we've got a fantastic new cookbook called Wild Flavors...more on that in future posts!).
But what makes a species native to a place? Is it the soil structure or nutrients? Is it the typical weather pattern of a place? Does it thrive because of a certain ecological community that supports it (other plants and animals that are interdependent)? And what happens when some or all of these factors change, causing that formerly native creature to feel quite out of place?
These and other questions lead many permaculturists to doubt the rationale of favoring so-called native species over non-native ones that can thrive in what may end up being completely new conditions. What with climate change and development altering habitats, it's hard to insist that only certain beings can live in a place, as if it were an exclusive club you need a membership card to access.
Author Martin Crawford is one such native plant skeptic. Watch this video to learn more about why, and check out his lovely book, Creating a Forest Garden for inspiration as to planting your own lush Eden (native or not)!