Native is a buzz word of sorts, depending upon the internet reference or latest urban definition you might stumble upon on the internet. Native can mean partaking in some or all cultural practices of the people around you. Behaving like or living like those from where others originate can bring you native status. Yep, I have been "going native". In circles of local friends and fellow gardeners I would often hear reference made to natives. They would discuss the best places to purchase natives, who was most knowledgeable, and the natives they had in their yards and gardens. Native as I understood the word became a totally different from their 'native'. I wanted to know more about natives and even have a few myself.
In our fifth year in the Ozark region I took the Master Gardener class through the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office. After several months of working on projects and seeing these natives in all their glory it seemed as if the clouds had parted. Useful knowledge came falling from the sky, and a huge spotlight shown right on the word, NATIVE.
Like humans to a specific region, native plants just do what they do, everyday in their own setting, business as usual. Native plants have their own culture, the make their home in ditches, creek beds and in the wooded areas we don't normally visit. Native plants can be indigenous to their region. Most however were brought in from another country or region under a variety of means, be it seed or root transplants. They aren't fussy and frankly do not care if you leave for a week or so. Favorable during dryer seasons and unfavorable weather conditions these guys are superstars in my book. Wow, plants that do not need me!
As many folks do, we take the biannual pilgrimage to the big box store, most often without a true plan. Most likely you have been there with a flat cart filled with plants that nursery companies hope we will buy. Mr. Big Box loves it when we leave with our cart full of annuals, Miracle Grow, and off we go into the wild blue yonder, planting with blinders on. Most consumers give little thought to how they will thrive or if they are likely to return in their yard again next year. We have all thrown a sizable wad of money in the dirt at nursery plants, not one of which was likely a native.
I would like to think that native plants are somewhat similar to humans. We have true natives that are from the region and we have those who are transplanted from another areas. Relocation did not disrupt their will to live or to adapt to the area, they set roots and thrived. Just today I felt like a true native of the Ozarks. I participated as a volunteer at the county fair. I ate a nice bowl of homecooked beans with ham and a big piece of cornbread as I visited with fellow natives and talked about the weather. Now those are good conditions that will make a person grow, thrive and set roots.