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Native or Non Native ?

Something I have been puzzling over recently and wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this subject ?

Is there actually a time limit on when a plant species can be classed as a Native or non Native ?  Hundreds, thousands or millions of years ?

Is there any difference between species introduced by man or introduced by other , say more natural, means ?  Well, yes there is a difference obviously but at what point in time do you draw a line ?

We are all aware of Rhodos, Himalayan balsam, Japanese Knot weed ,Grey Squirrels, Mink and many others but is the classic English Oak or the Horse Chestnut deemed to be native and by what criteria ?.

In other words, would you say that anything introduced to the UK after 1500 is non native or would you draw the line at anything introduced after 1800 ?  Or pick any date before, in between or after.



  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 6,111

    An interesting question that I couldn't help but google.

    I came across this Wiki article, which surprised me

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,280

    If you"re a purist, not a lot is really native, since every tribe that has invaded from the Celts to the Picts, Romans, Angles, Saxons and Normans have brought their own plants with them.  Before that there was land between us and continental Europe so all sorts travelled by wind and then bird and critter droppings.  

    Last edited: 20 October 2016 17:26:08

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,528


    Last edited: 20 October 2016 20:18:08

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875

    I think a species is deemed to be native to Britain if it arrived without human intervention. Most of these will have been here before the 'land bridge'  joining Britain to continal Europe became submerged.  More recently some plant species have had seeds carried here by wind and conceivably some could float. With bird species they do of course fly here and sometimes become established and once regular breeding occurs they become native.

  • Thanks Pete for that link - interesting.

    There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule about which species we can truly term native or non native.

    You're right Verdun - I don't suppose it really matters - it was simply wondering how long something is here before you pronounce it native as such.  What set me thinking about it was the number of times posters on the forum and elsewhere have mentioned about getting rid of various things as they are non native.

    Going off Redwings interpretation, it could be said we don't have many truly native species.

    Beautiful fossil Pansyfaceimageimage

    Thanks all - food for thought.

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875
    philippa smith2 says:


    Going off Redwings interpretation, it could be said we don't have many truly native species..


    Thanks all - food for thought.

    See original post

     There are many native species but perhaps they are not the showiest.  

    I wonder why you ask the question Phillippa.  Is is it to encourage wildlife perhaps?  Or just curiosity?  There are many non native species which will help wildlife in your garden. 

    Pete's link is indeed interesting.  I have read it. But there is a difference between native species and endemic species.  Native is, as I have described above, but endemic means that it occurs nowhere else.  There are very few endemic species to Britain but many many native species.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,160

    The advantage of the native plant species is as food for the native animal species, especially the larvae of native insects. 

    I grow a selection of native plants and you're right Redwing, they're not the showiest but they suit me, my garden and its inhabitants.

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