Professor of Horticulture
Research focus: Conservation and utilization of plant
germplasm, especially native and introduced ornamental plants
Years at UMaine: Eight
Milestones: Applied DNA markers on ornamental cultivar
discrimination and genetic diversity (Japanese plum yew, boxwood,
lilac and flowering peach). Found an effective way to propagate
native plants, such as sweet fern, hobblebush viburnum, blue iris,
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Native Plant Species
Question: What are the benefits of using New England's native
plant species as ornamentals in the home landscape?
Answer: One of the main benefits is that plants that are native
to this area are very easy to grow here. They have learned to survive in
the Northeast over thousands of years, developing strategies to deal
with the pests, pathogens and environmental conditions. Many of them are
hardy and easy to maintain, and their beauty is often overlooked. Maine
has a huge variety of native plants that, with the help of focused
selection programs to develop new cultivars, are just as beautiful as
the imported plant species that are so often seen in nurseries and
garden stores. Because they thrive in the growing conditions found in
our area, there really is no good reason not to plant them in the home
Question: What other advantages do natives have over other
Answer: One very important advantage has to do with the overall
health of the environment. By using selected native plants and their
cultivars, gardeners can be confident that what they are planting will
not become an invasive plant. Many of the invasive species that threaten
ecosystems in the Northeast came here as ornamental plantings from
Europe and Asia. Natives also are adapted to local climate and, in some
cases, require less care.
Question: What opportunities do you see for Maine's horticulture
industry with regard to native plants?
Answer: There is tremendous potential for developing new,
marketable cultivars of native plants in the Northeast. There hasn't
been a lot of effort invested in the development of native species to
emphasize their beauty. Cultivars that bring out the plants' unique
colors, sizes, shapes and other qualities would appeal to a huge market.
Their development represents a huge opportunity for horticulturists.
Question: What resources would you recommend to those interested
in planting native species?
Answer: University of Maine Cooperative Extension has put out two
excellent publications dealing with native plants: The Maine Native
Plants Source List and Gardening to Conserve Maine's Landscape. These
and other Extension publications can be ordered online (http://extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu).