[permaculture] The Effect of Cultivars on Native Species Gene Pools

yarrow at sfo.com yarrow at sfo.com
Wed Dec 30 15:23:41 EST 2009

At 6:56 PM +0000 12/30/09, Armed With A Mind Armed With A Mind wrote:
...>I want to err on the side of caution but there are some plants 
that are tempting me to hop the fence to the other side. I recall for 
example how tough it is to crack a native black walnut, and how 
little meat there is. Similarily with regards to meat size is Korean 
Pine nut. Grapes, mulberries, and strawberries, are just a few of the 
plants that I'd like to grow cultivars of but am worried about doing 
to their native relatives what GMO's are doing to corn, and canola, 
etc. The last thing I want to be is a Monsanto-like monster to my 
local ecosystem.
>What is your take on this issue?
Depends how close your plants are to a wild area. Here in suburbia, 
anything goes, though I still avoid nonnative nonedibles -- it has to 
feed me or the wildlife. If you're at a wildland interface, then I'd 
do some research to find out what's native nearby, and maybe avoid 
those genera. Also, you could plant the cultivars in the areas closer 
to your house, with lots of netting (to prevent birds from creating 
hybrids). I wonder if the distance from wild genera will prevent 
hybridization by bees.

Another idea is to embrace the wild foods. I'm sitting here nibbling 
on black walnuts (bought not collected, but seasonal). They have a 
special taste. Many wild foods have higher levels of nutrients than 
cultivated ones, and stronger flavors.

Are there wild Morus sp.?

Here in Calif., the 'Roger's Red' grape cultivar that for years was 
sold as a native cv. has been found to be only half native. The other 
half is a cultivated grape, probaby from the vineyards that have 
taken over Napa and Sonoma counties -- a real-life experiment that 
puts monsters in the ecosystem. It might be worth looking to see if 
anyone has investigated the effect of acres of cultivated grapes on 
the native stock. I do know that many of the local cvs. of Calif. 
poppies are becoming hard to find because of all the "let's plant 
wildflowers" school/community programs that spread nonlocal seedstock.

The strawberries might be a safe bet if you can plant them close to 
your house and/or under cover, and maybe there isn't a Fragaria sp. 
nearby? It would seem more a risk for Prunus sp. in your orchard, or 
Rubus sp. if you want to grow brambleberries, or Vaccinium sp., which 
may all be common in the wild and harder to cover or keep close to 
the  house.

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