WHAT ARE NATIVE TREES?
When people plant trees they have to choose what sort of tree they want to plant. Some trees are native to their area, but others are not.
A sort of tree is native to an area if it has been growing there in the wild for a long time. If someone plants a tree from somewhere else but it spreads and grows in the wild in the area it does not become a native tree. Trees that are not native to an area are often called exotic.
WHY WOULD PEOPLE PLANT EXOTIC TREES?
There are often some benefits to planting exotic trees. Seeds for exotic trees may be easier to get. It may also be easier to find out how to grow exotic trees. This is because they have often been grown more in other places.
Some exotic trees may be tougher and live through harsher conditions. For example, they may be drought resistant. This means that they can survive long periods without rainfall.
There can be another good thing about exotic trees just after they have been brought into an area. They may start off free of the pests and diseases that damage trees in that area. This means that they may grow very fast to start with.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF PLANTING EXOTIC TREES?
Exotic trees can grow very fast in new areas. Sometimes they can grow faster than the native trees. If this happens then they can spread across the area very fast. They can become a weed and cause problems.
An example of this is the black wattle. This tree comes from Australia. People planted it in Africa to grow for firewood. It spread very fast and has grown over pastures and people’s farmland in some areas. This has made it harder for these people to grow crops and feed animals.
WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT PLANTING NATIVE TREES?
Native trees have been attacked by pests and diseases in the area for a long time. This means that they often have found ways to protect themselves from these pests and diseases. They may be able to survive attacks from them that would kill exotic trees.
Native trees are also used to the weather and soil in the area. This means that they may grow better in the area and need less care. They are used to the amount of rain that the area usually gets. This means that you may have to water them less than some exotic trees.
Native trees can also help to support native animals and insects which live on them or need them. These animals and insects may be important to people nearby.
For example, some animals might be hunted and used for food. These animals may live on native trees. This means that growing native trees can help make sure that there are plenty of these animals to use.
Some native trees in your area might be endangered. This means that there are not many of this sort of tree left. Endangered trees are in danger of disappearing forever. Some endangered trees may be useful for producing new medicines that have not been discovered yet.
This means that it is a good idea to try to save endangered trees. If you can grow an endangered tree this helps to save it.