An Alameda Garden: It May Be California's Oldest Plant But Is It a Native?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It May Be California's Oldest Plant But Is It a Native?

There's a fascinating article in the LA Times about the discovery of a Jurupa Hills oak that researchers believe is about 13,000 years old, a good 3000 years older than the mighty redwoods.

One of the most interesting parts of the story, however, is this:

"But the Jurupa oak, researchers reported today in the online journal PLoS One, is unusual in that it is well out of its normal environment, which would be high in the mountains. It took seed at its current location near the end of the last ice age, when the climate was cooler and wetter. As its brethren died out because of climatic change, it persisted.

"If you planted a seedling there now, I doubt very much whether it would grow," said plant scientist Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra of UC Davis, lead author of the paper by UC Davis and UC Riverside scientists."

In other words, while this plant would certainly meet the criteria of just about any definition of a "native," if it were being planted in the exact same spot today, it would probably not survive. Hopefully, this will give native-plant purists a moment of pause. The whole native plant issue is just not that cut and dry. (I hate to say I told you so, but...)
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