As the planet warms, how do we decide when a plant is native?

As the planet warms, how do we decide when a plant is native?

Yale Environment 360: The fate of a tree planted at poet Emily Dickinson’s home raises questions about whether gardeners can – or should – play a role in helping plant species migrate in the face of rising temperatures and swiftly changing botanical zones.


Sunlight filters through the leaves of an umbrella tree, North Carolina, US. Photograph: Raymond Gehman/NGS/Getty Images

Janet Marinelli for Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network

On rare occasions, the townsfolk of Amherst, Massachusetts, would catch a glimpse of a ghostly figure dressed in white, leaning over to tend her flowers by flickering lantern light. The mysterious recluse, who was better known to neighbors for her exquisite garden than for her lyric poems that revealed a passionate love of nature, differed from fellow 19th-century American writers whose thinking became the bedrock of modern environmentalism. While Thoreau famously declared wild places to be “the preservation of the world,” Emily Dickinson was finding nature’s truth and power in an ordinary dandelion.

Among the plants that survive on the family property where Dickinson confined herself for much of her adult life are picturesque old trees called umbrella magnolias (Magnolia tripetala) — so name. Read more.