Permaculture means various things to various people. To me, it means using perennial plants, shrubs and trees to provide your food. I suppose livestock can fit in there, too, if you’re careful, and don’t wish to limit yourself to native animals.
That being said, it would seem logical to use as many species as possible that are native to your area. After all, they’ve grown as volunteers for thousands of years, so they’re certainly acclimated to that region. In my mind, there’s another reason of growing importance to “go native.” Honeybees in this country are suffering huge down-turns in population. Disease, parasites, cell phones and insecticides are all being blamed, and probably with good reason. Hard winters can make matters worse.
Luckily, native species don’t require honeybees, since they developed without their help. Though many folks don’t realize it, honeybees emigrated from Europe, along with the white man. In fact, there are mentions of American natives calling them “white man’s flies.” Bee and bug populations are quite varied and a surprising number are pollinators. Just for the record, there IS a native species of bee (Mason Bees) that can pollinate the same range of blossoms as honey bees, and some folks are inviting them into their gardens with ready-made bee condos. If you aren’t handy, you can even buy the bees and bee condos.
A great variety of common garden plants don’t need honey bees anyway. Squash, pumpkins, gourds, corn, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes all come to mind. If you didn’t notice, those are all plants native to the Americas, and there are probably dozens or even hundreds of others that would lend themselves to simple cultivation. Combined with native trees and shrubs that produce fruit and nuts, I believe a person could eat quite well without honeybees. All things considered, I believe more effort should be put into native species for that reason.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to disparage anyone from having honeybees; I used to keep bees myself, and may again someday. I really enjoyed them and still LOVE honey. However, just to play it safe, I’m starting to accumulate some native plants and shrubs in my yard. I own several acres of woods behind the house that has White oaks, walnuts, hickories and paw-paws mixed through it, so I’m in fair shape already.
Give native permaculture some thought; after all, it worked for the natives. © 2013