Recently planted (April 2004) landscaping at Lake Mead RV Park, a concessionaire at Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Photo May 2005)
Landscaping within developed areas of the park is an important aspect of visitor enjoyment. Plants provide amenity values in terms of both shade and beauty. In the past nonnative plants have dominated developed landscapes in and around Lake Mead NRA, but today the planting of exotic species is no longer permitted within the park boundaries. This restriction applies not only to public facilities, but private operations managed by concessionaires within the park.
Native species are not typically available from commercial nurseries in the area, and those that are, tend to be horticultural varieties rather than the local genetics. As a consequence, the nursery fills an important gap by providing planting stock that would be otherwise unavailable for landscaping public and private infrastructure within the park.
While landscaping is not restoration, when done using native plants it is important for several reasons. The first is the practical concept of weed control. Native plants are unlikely to become weeds as they are already present, and subject to natural controls on their spread. Many ornamental exotic species on the other hand have become significant weed problems within the park. Not only does exclusion of exotics prevent introduction of new challenges, but it is an important part of bringing existing weed outbreaks under control.
A second reason use of natives is important is respect of place. Landscaping with native plants can bring out the beauty of a site using its own potential and local flavors rather than treating it as a blank slate upon which to create an alien landscape. This is particularly appropriate in an area managed by the Park Service as it helps to further the educational role of the park.
Finally, by virtue of being well adapted to the local environment, many native species perform as well, or better than nonnative ornamentals. One need only look at the cottonwood at right to see this. The primary reasons landscapers tend to favor exotics are their familiarity with them, and the ease of acquiring them for a project. The nursery provides a supporting role by making available both native material and knowledge about how to use it.
Continued: native hedges & more
Cottonwood planted at Boulder Beach Campground as part of a program to maintain shade, while phasing out nonnative Athel, which has become a weed problem in the park
Impressive growth potential of Fremont Cottonwood. The tree on the right was the size of the tree on the left when it was planted in April 2004. The photo on the right shows the size it had grown to in a little over a year, by May 2005.