The United Kingdom is home to a rich diversity of flora, with many species of plants and trees found nowhere else in the world. However, climate change and human activities such as deforestation and urbanisation have put increasing pressure on the country’s native plant populations. One solution to this problem could well be the use of non-native cultivars, which can bring many benefits to the UK’s biodiversity and ecosystem resilience.
Non-native cultivars are plant species that have been introduced to the UK from other regions of the world. They may have been brought over intentionally for their ornamental or economic value, or they may have arrived accidentally through human transport. While non-native cultivars can sometimes become invasive and threaten native species, many can be used in a positive way to help support biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change. Take hollyhocks, a plant I know well. It has been in the UK for over 500 years, is non invasive, drought tolerant, loved by pollinators and historically has even been grown as a crop for its fibres to try to produce cloth.
One of the main benefits of non-native cultivars is their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. As the UK’s climate changes, many native plants may struggle to cope with rising temperatures, drought, and other stressors. Non-native cultivars, on the other hand, may be better equipped to thrive in these conditions, as they have evolved to survive in different climates and environments. By considering the role non-native cultivars play in the UK, we can help to increase the resilience of our ecosystems and perhaps reduce the risk of biodiversity loss.
Of course, it’s important to note that not all non-native cultivars are created equal. Some can become invasive and outcompete native species, leading to a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, with careful planning and management, non-native cultivars can be used in a sustainable and responsible way to support the UK’s biodiversity and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
As the UK continues to grapple with the impacts of climate change, non-native cultivars may play an increasingly important role in supporting our natural environments.