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Article: Don't Get Burned by "Burning Bush": Invasive species

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Forum: Article: Don't Get Burned by "Burning Bush"Replies: 9, Views: 27
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Payson, AZ

March 7, 2011
10:34 AM

Post #8412160

Please take the time to obtain and read INVASION BIOLOGY CRITIQUE OF A PSEUDOSCIENCE by David I. Theodoropoulos. with 20 pages of cited sources.
The very short story is 1. Nature uses succession to repopulate barren areas. This means,
A. First the the most prolific weeds move in, we call them noxious because they poke us and spread.
B. Then, the grasses move in, then, the forbes, then, the trees etc. over many, many years.
C. Some areas only get so far in this natural succession due to.
1. Local climate effects
2. Set backs, including among many things
a. Human beings who stop succession to maintain (static) conditions for gardening, hands-off landscaping, etc., which usually means landscRaping of topsoil.

One finally admits that human beings are more apt to be labeled the "invasive species" since they either try to stop succession or provide the disturbed soil conditions which Nature strives to re-populate. I think accusingly labeling any plant as invasive is hypocritical. Whether a human "invades" a soil using a prolific, ubiquitous plant is more the issue.

Certain corporate entities have a big interest in minimizing Nature's tendency to promote life. Along with the consumer tendency to keep every plant separate and used as a "specimen", the guild or symbiotic phenomenon of fungus-swapping-nutrients-from-one-plant-to-another, is negated. This demotes fertility. So, many then reach for a chemical to kill or grow.

Obviously, this is an incomplete picture. Buy the book. Inform yourself. Get more of the picture.

Lebanon, GA

March 7, 2011
12:29 PM

Post #8412494

Notill, while I'm willing to admit that human beings and their drive to change their surroundings can be considered a bad thing (but isn't always - My "drive to change my surroundings" has me slowly but surely replacing my monoculture grassy lawn with a more diverse, wildlife friendly yard), I have a hard time buying into the rest of your "concept in a nutshell." (responding only to your post - have not read the book)

Natural succession (as I understand it), would result in native plants working through their succession process. I have a hard time believing that nature ever meant for an Asian plant species to be part of the natural succession in a US landscape. But that's what is happening, thanks to bad decisions that were made as many as 350 years ago.

So what do we do? Work on assigning blame, or work on improving the situation? If we choose to work on improving the situation, one part of the process has got to be stopping people from planting things that have been proven to interfere with native plants and natural, native plant succession. This means educating the home gardener, which means needing to identify the non-native species that present the most difficulties,

Calling them invasive is an easily identifiable label that many people will recognize and respond to.

Surely that's a reasonable step in the improvement process?

I know that I, myself, used to think I wanted a burning bush, until a visit to a local botanical garden taught me about invasive plants and listed alternatives. I now doublecheck the GA invasive species list before buying plants, and try to buy native whenever possible. But had E.A. not been listed as invasive, I might never have changed my personal gardening habits.

So I vote for labels and education, and for trying to improve the situation rather than looking to assign blame for decisions that were made decades or centuries ago.

(Just my 2 cents, because I'm tired of people blaming humans for everything. We're not perfect, but we're not evil, either.)


Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 7, 2011
1:30 PM

Post #8412627

Yes, as fiwit says, I am only, in my article, railing against one (of many) Asian species which out-competes the locals. One of the wisest things I came across in my research for this article was the notion that in order to be "an invasive species" a plant has to take over indigenous species. Not lawns, which are already disturbed areas. So a dandelion, which was imported as medicinal by early settlers, is not invasive. If we would stop making phony lawns for them, they would not have a niche in the native ecosystem (or would not have had).

Thank you both for your interesting comments!
Payson, AZ

March 7, 2011
2:26 PM

Post #8412766


Thanks for your thoughts.

I hope I wasn't putting humans out to be evil any more than others are attributing the same to a plant.
One could argue that we are both doing what we do naturally, humans - arrange, specify, decide according to our motives, wise or unwise. Meanwhile, if a plant grows, it is being as opportunistic as its capabilities allow.

My mother once said, "There are no illegitimate babies, only illegitimate parents." back in the day when parent-less humans were considered out of the norm.

So also, I wish to be more accurate with the term "invasive". The human who unwisely uses the organism is at fault, not the plant.

Like the "guns don't kill, people do." truism. Otherwise, we would have prisons full of guns instead of people.

Perhaps, more accurate, but less acceptable may be, THIS IS IRRESPONSIBLE-HUMAN (mad scientist) US- OF- POWERFUL-PLANT-CAPABILITIES WEEK. - or some such tongue-in-cheek designation.

I just couldn't let what I perceived to be over-reaching statements to stand unlimited. -Of, course, what I just proposed is as well.

In our Locale, we have the continuing battle of forest usage. Now they criticize the Forestry Service's long practice of putting out all forest fires claiming some fires are natural. Or,should "we" harvest the trees for OSB. Or, one old-timer argues there are hundreds of trees per acre where 50 years ago it was only 35 per acre. Therefore, this forest needs thinning and needs cattle grazing.
So, he takes it back to 50 years or so. I think to that person, the cowboy era worked and was therefore the only right era for this ecosystem. Why not take it back 10,000 years? What was the area like then? Since these ponderosa pines grow out of rock now, was there only windswept rock then? At what point do we declare that certain species are "native" to an area? What are native today, may not have been centuries ago.

Additionally, humans have been dragging seeds, roots, plants and pollen from place to place for millenia. Animals and birds have been snagging and releasing seeds in many ways. Heck, human out-house drainage ditches have been known to populate volunteer tomato plants with fruits that are quite edible.

Now, the greater population, has more and quicker and further movements, the commercial transportation's abilities to pepper the globe with plants, bacterias, fungi, and results of all kinds, products, plagues or peace really really multiplies the problem.

I believe that solving the issue means all of the things you mentioned and more.
Just because we correctly attribute cause and effect directly to human intervention does not mean we have a "human-apobia" or are out to just point fingers. Heck, I've made bad plant choices myself. But we need to be aware of the system we try to "exploit, manage, integrate" and all the other popular verbs before we succumb to any pressure, whether to propagate, buy or plant, or to rip up, poison or kill.

There are many positive effects from supplanting. That process also has been going on forever. Entire continents have been repopulated with a new race, a new plant, and new animal, and new insect. The replaced pioneers, understandably, don't think of supplanting, also known as being conquered, invaded (legally, or illegally) or consigned to a reservation as positive. I think all living organisms are somewhere in the defending-to-acquiring spectrum, from fungi to folks.

The fulcrum of decision always lies between maintaining the status quo vs partial or total replacement. It ain't easy.

I suspect that humans, in a way, resent the fact that other forces are much powerful than they, and they want to cry, "Mom, he's stronger than I am, it ain't fair, I want things my way!"

Oh, well have fun with my take.

Thanks for the feed back,

Lebanon, GA

March 11, 2011
5:03 AM

Post #8419753

Notill.. I liked your second post a lot better than the first :) I think you're making the same points, so maybe it was the brevity of the first post that led me to misinterpret it. Or maybe I zeroed in on (quote) One finally admits that human beings are more apt to be labeled the "invasive species"(unquote), and reacted to that, rather than the entire post.

Someone in another forum mentioned macro v. micro evolution... I guess what I rail against is the micro version. I love the concept of succession... the way the dunes of Lake Michigan move from sand to woodlands has always fascinated me. I don't like the concept of plants that support the local fauna being forced out by plants that do not, simply because someone, at some time, thought it was a pretty plant and wanted it in their yard (kudzu, burning bush, oriental wisteria, japanese honeysuckle, whatever).

When plants are in their native area, they have natural predators, and natural benefactors. Plants outside their native area do not (same with critters, like that fish that is invading the rivers).

Humankind seems to have tunnel vision when crafting solutions -- DDT killed the malaria-causing mosquitoes, but had other, much less desirable side effects. We also seem to go for either/or solutions. Either a plant is native, or it's not. Either it's good, or it's bad. Plants that developed "here" have a symbiotic relationship with the other flora and fauna of "here." Plants that developed elsewhere do not yet. And the macro version tells me that it takes "billions and billions of years" ;) to develop that symbiotic relationship. So when plants from somewhere else crowd out plants from here, that threatens the entire ecosystem of this area.

That's my concern. Not how did the plant get here originally, but does it have a relationship with the ecosystem, and if not, do I really want it in my yard? (sometimes the answer is yes).

My job as a responsible steward of my piece of earth is to care for it as best I know how. For me, that means safeguarding it against unfriendly plants.

It means not using pesticides, no matter how much I hate it when my dogs get fleas or ticks.

It means not using chemicals that will leach into the groundwater table, or run off and drain into the rivers.

It means composting my kitchen waste, and giving it back to the land.

It means planting plants that are pollinator friendly, and even putting up with the early blooming henbit deadnettle weeds in my yard, because they help the pollinators (I'm constantly going back and forth on that one, but someday I'll find a plant that blooms just as early and doesn't drive me crazy).

It means educating myself, researching decisions instead of being impulsive, and when necessary, removing plants that were bad decisions.

For someone else, it may have an entirely different meaning (a neighbor tells me my yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer). But for me, nature is having a hard enough time recovering from humankind's disregard, and my job is to help mitigate that in my little corner of the world.


Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 11, 2011
8:08 AM

Post #8420104

(At least your neighbor has a sense of humor ... mine are all very grim.)
Lebanon, GA

March 11, 2011
8:47 AM

Post #8420174

One neighbor does NOT like my yard


Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 11, 2011
9:08 AM

Post #8420213

I get that too! After 5-10 years, people are starting to stop and say oh what pretty flowers, though!
Lebanon, GA

March 11, 2011
9:55 AM

Post #8420292

The neighbor who doesn't like it thinks the city should write an ordinance forcing people to keep their lawn only 1/2" high.

My front lawn is 50x150, and when I moved in, it was nothing but Zoysia grass, with an occasional tree on the perimeter. Southwestern exposure in GA, with NO shade on the house. I work from home, with my office at the front of the house, so I have to have shade. Accordingly, I have planted a grand total of 20 trees in the front yard, thus far. Most are natives, a few are not. I also created a 15x25 "island" in the center of the yard, with shrubs on the perimeter. Next part of the process is to plants shrubs between the trees, to provide travel corridors for small critters.

I'm on a corner lot near the front of the subdivision, so the only people who don't drive by my house on a daily basis are the 3-4 houses between the main street and me. As I transform my yard from lawn to something more wildlife friendly, I'm trying to be sensitive to those who think differently than I do. But I've had many chats with the city code compliance guy already, and envision more in my future, until it all comes together and looks like what I see in my head.

I've already achieved one goal I set for myself -- the riding mower is going on Craig's List this weekend. I now have too many trees for it to be usable in the front yard.


Milton, MA
(Zone 6a)

March 11, 2011
11:40 AM

Post #8420455

Different problem altogether than ours, although I think your neighbor's twin lives next door. If there weren't town laws about noise and hours, he would mow his lawn at 6 am 7 days a week. (He's the only other person on the street who mows his own lawn, though.) I am physically unable to do it, and DH does the front sometimes, but he'd rather look at a field of monarda than lawn grass. The back is a jungle of invasives and the euonymus is winning - not BB though.

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