WHAT IS A NATIVAR?
A nativar is a cultivar of a native plant. Nativars are usually created in a nursery setting and are created to impact desired traits by gardeners, but not necessarily for nature. Nativars can also occur naturally, the most common example ('Annabelle' Hydrangea).
How can you recognize a nativar for sale? Look at the name of the plant. You will see the nativar name in single quotes following the scientific name (e.g., Iris cristata 'Powder Blue Giant' - Dwarf Crested Iris).
You can identify native plants if both the genus and species name (e.g., Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed) are listed.
ARE NATIVARS GOOD?
There are many opinions...some nativars may provide the same ecological benefit in your yard as the native; however, some may not (ecological benefits are usually meant as support of insects, pollinators, birds, mammals). Some nativars bred by humans can be even more desirable by pollinators than the wild species (e.g. Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavenderturm' = 'Lavender Towers' is true pollinator and butterfly magnet, while wild Veronicastrum virginicum is not).
But generally we can say, that nativars are/were not primarily bred to have high ecological value, but higher ornamental values. So far, there is little information about the ecological qualities of nativars, but times are changing.
For example, project of Chicago Botanic Garden, BUDBURST is observing several nativars and comparing with their parents (the wild forms). Mt. Cuba Center works on nativar trials and so far has monitored pollinators in trials of Coreopsis, Monarda, Phlox and Helenium. Landscape designer and Adjunct professor at University of Vemont, Annie White, makes her own research on native wildflowers with their cultivated forms.
It is important to grow all types of plants and we wish to provide a variety of choices to you which are beneficial in your particular landscape.