Abstract Restoration practitioners have long been faced with a dichotomous choice of native versus introduced plant material confounded by a general lack of consensus concerning what constitutes being native. The “restoration gene pool” concept assigns plant materials to one of four restoration gene pools (primary to quaternary) in order of declining genetic correspondence to the target population. Adaptation is decoupled from genetic identity because they often do not correspond, particularly if ecosystem function of the disturbed site has been altered. Because use of plant material with highest genetic identity, that is, the primary restoration gene pool, may not be ultimately successful, material of higher order pools may be substituted. This decision can be made individually for each plant species in the restored plant community in the scientific context that ecosystem management demands. The restoration gene pool concept provides a place for cultivars of native species and noninvasive introduced plant material when use of native-site material is not feasible. The use of metapopulation polycrosses or composites and multiple-origin polycrosses or composites is encouraged as appropriate. The restoration gene pool concept can be implemented as a hierarchical decision-support tool within the larger context of planning seedings.