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Article: Trash Trees: Why We Love Them: But We Must Make Responsible Choices

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chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
12:13 PM

Post #5528483

I agree that gardens are an extension and reflection of their creators. I have a patch of iris from my DH's grandma. We think of her every time they put on their glorious show for us. And because we live in this great country, we have the freedom to choose what we put in our gardens. But with that privilege comes responsibility. Each of us is part of a larger community and therefore obligated to consider the consequences of our actions on that community.

There is a world of difference between planting a known invasive species such as Tree of Heaven, versus planting a "trash tree" such as Bradford Pear. The first is irresponsible and in many states illegal. But I would defend anyone's right to plant the second. I won't have one in my yard, but your yard is your choice.

I don't believe that this article was intended to encourage the planting of invasive species. However, many gardeners may not be aware of the issue and its ramifications. So while I agree in principle with the article's view on personal choice, it might have been helpful to include information about the difference between invasive/noxious and just 'trash'.








gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
12:27 PM

Post #5528520

I agree with chatnoir. Invasive species have to be the responsability of everyone.
My property is being consumed with chinaberry trees, wisteria, and those mimosa that you show in your photograph.

The trouble with these trees is that they are colonizers. You can't have just one.

And why not plant a tree that will last until your kids are out of elementary school!
MitchF
Lindsay, OK
(Zone 7a)

September 9, 2008
2:13 PM

Post #5528899

Right chatnoir, and with a world full of readers I tried to stay out of tree names all I could. Every gardener needs to think through all the trees in their yard they plant, and bushes, flowers, grass... when we play with earth we must keep it in a way we can feel proud of for future generations.

Gloria - that is the question, why do good gardeners plant trees like these, native or not, that are short lived or not fashionable in their yards? Every person that I taked to for this article all said the same thing - it was tied into their memories. I meet one woman who deadheaded her butterfly bushes everyafternoon to stop them from spreading but still wanted them in her yard because her daughters gave her the plant when they where little.. so people could plant a tree that would live forever ( a native one I hope) but they dont, or they still feel the need to plant something else, something bad into their garden. it is the why in my own garden and life that makes me dig a little deeper - and for the record the mimosa I planted and cared for never got to blooming size when working on this article and I cut it out and found that a good photograph of the tree in my mind worked all the same to full fill my desires.
LariAnn
Miami, FL
(Zone 10a)

September 9, 2008
5:48 PM

Post #5529800

Whenever I hear plants and trees being labeled as "invasive" I have to put in my $0.02 about it. Plants grow just as they are. They don't plot, plan or think about doing something as inflammatory as "invading" anything. The comment about privilege and responsibility is spot on here because it is us humans who are responsible, not the plants. So long as we take responsibility for the plants we keep and release, all will be fine. Those who did not take responsibility ultimately caused the "problem" of "invasive" plants, not the plants themselves. Taking responsibility also includes accepting the blame for failing to take responsibility and not blaming someone or something else instead.

I remember seeing Tree of Heaven growing wild in Washington, D. C. Where was it growing? It was growing in abandoned lots, cracks between buildings and other places where nothing else was growing. Is this "invading" or is it a plant using an unnatural niche that nothing else is using? Same goes for Paulownia; I tried to get one to grow deliberately and failed, yet I saw wonderful specimens growing in cracks between sidewalks and retaining walls where I couldn't dig it up for my garden. Life will go where it will go.

Sometimes it seems as though people think some plants came from another planet. They did not. They are native to Planet Earth. Prejudice is the invader that must be rooted out no matter where it is to be found and in what kingdom of life it is directed at, IMHO.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

September 9, 2008
6:04 PM

Post #5529850

Amen LariAnn. Well said.

Doug
MitchF
Lindsay, OK
(Zone 7a)

September 9, 2008
6:25 PM

Post #5529924

LariAnn - that is very well put, I have been told by an older gardening mentor that a plant just wants to grow, and if it reseeds or sends out shoots it is just doing its misson in life.
chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
6:29 PM

Post #5529937

Actually, invasive is not a descriptive term applied by individuals. It is a formal classification made by either the federal or state government. You and I don't get to decide what is invasive. This is an important distinction because there are laws surrounding some of these classifications.

And you're 100% right. It's not the plants fault - they're just doing what they're biologically engineered to do - grow and reproduce. It's not a question of prejudice. More like an issue of a balanced ecosystem. In their 'home' environments, invasive species have naturally occurring checks and balances. Outside of that system, who knows? Some thrive, some don't. Those classified as invasive have obviously found conditions quite favorable with little to no competition. Eventually, they crowd out everything else and become a monoculture.

Really, to say that you don't accept a species (plant, animal, insect, etc.) as invasive makes as much sense as saying you don't accept stopping for red lights. It's not really a choice.

This was a good article because it stimulated some important discussions!
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
6:32 PM

Post #5529957

Very well put, Lari Ann.

As for memories: There is an old movie starring Montgomery Clift that is about TVA relocating families from the islands in the Tennessee River.

One mother dug up a chinaberry tree to plant at her new place so her children would remember their old home.

Yikes. I spend so much time whacking away at these. My neighbor says the poison berries are good for worming his goats and refuses to cut his grove of chinaberries.
LariAnn
Miami, FL
(Zone 10a)

September 9, 2008
6:39 PM

Post #5529983

Sorry, chatnoir, but your comparison is not fair or accurate. The government got this "invasive" idea from somewhere; I believe that politicians could care less about what a plant does unless it is politically advantageous. Some of the biggest lobbyists are the chemical companies, among which are the huge herbicide companies, who often sponsor "invasive species councils". This is not rational or scientific, it is based on rhetoric and political expediency, unlike stopping at red lights, which is a matter of genuine public safety. Who is going to die if a Tree of Heaven grows in the inner city?

And, it IS a choice. We vote and decide who we want making our laws. If we decide that destruction of species is "right", whether for rational or irrational reasons, that's what we will get. If we decide that prejudice is wrong, then we will vote to eliminate it. If we decide that a law is unjust, we will fight it in court. Choice all around. The "invasive" laws didn't come down from heaven on tablets of stone. IMHO, they came from people with agendas to push and special interests to appease. Not like stopping at red lights.
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
6:41 PM

Post #5529994

In permaculture right now there is a rumble regarding its just plants doing what they want to do. Most "invasive" plants (USDA designation) are pioneer plants that will move into poor or exhausted land and populate it with nitrogen fixers (like the mimosa), or plants with deep roots to bring up deep nutrients, or leafy plants like kudzu and ivy to provide a living mulch. If left to their own devices they would soon phase out to a more mature forest. (I haven't seen the kudzu around here doing any phasing out).

The flamboyant proponent of letting invasive plants invade is the owner of JL Hudson, and Co.

As for me, I don.t like them. I would like some blueberries and raspberries and pears and grapes and such.

I do not choose these chinaberries, wisteria, autumn clematis, privet et al. But there they are taking over my 2 acres of land.
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
6:52 PM

Post #5530056

This is the book I referred to above:

David I Theodoropoulos. Invasion Biology. (Souce: J. L. Hudson, seedsman/books.



"[T]he core of the book is an attack on prevailing paradigma of invasion biology... [T]he book contains many new points of view, and stimulating ideas, and I recommend it for reading not only to specialists but also to general biologists." óDr. J. Krekule, 2003. Book Review. Photosynthetica, 41 (3):348.

"In this provocative work, Mr. Theodoropoulos uses a combination of detailed bibliographic research, precise language, and skillful polemics to analyze invasion biology as a pseudoscience... it is an organic work of great analytical force and bibliographic intensity... The credibility of the book's arguments is based in fundamental evolutionary ecology... Critics may dispute some of his analyses or judgments, but their own credibility would need to be measured against Mr. Theodoropoulos's analytical rigor, clarity of expression, and transparency of agenda... Mr. Theodoropoulos's ideas are, in this book, ecologically coherent, precisely conceived, and effectively articulated." óDr. D.L. Scarnecchia, Washington State University. Book Review, Rangelands 26(2), April 2004.

"Now it is invasion biologists' turn to face misguided invective. [The book is] faulty... inconsistent... [has] an inadequate evolutionary framework... incendiary... disingenuous... inflammatory... spurious, highly politicized... invective, masquerading as an authentic scientific critique." óDr. D. Secord, University of Washington. Book Review, Ecology 85(4), April 2004.

Many of you have read my essays on the "invasive species" question, and at last, here is a book-length, scientific treatment of the subject.

We have all heard the breathless tales of the dangers of "invasive alien species," but what does science say about them? Did you know that studies show that purple loosestrife does not affect species richness of native plants? Or that it supports higher bird densities than native vegetation? That saltcedar supports native birds and insects in high numbers and at high levels of diversity, including endangered species? That the "invasive alien" hydrilla supports the highest bird species diversity in Florida, and it supports higher fish species density and many times the fish biomass than natives? That the zebra mussel increased the catch of yellow perch five-fold, and that it improves water quality? That the so-called "killer algae" reduces pollution and helps native species? That in all cases, including even oceanic islands, introduced species have increased biodiversity?

Thoroughly researched, with full citations to scientific literature, this book will definitely change your view of introduced species. It will give you the facts you need to counter those promoting invader fears.

Chapters cover the origins of "natural" ecosystems and their changes over time, and detail the true underlying causes of "invasion" in the damage industrialism is wreaking on the planet. Case studies of many of the most feared "invaders" are presented, each case showing the distortions of the nativists, and the beneficial effects of the newcomer. The resiliency of ecosystems and the rapid ecological integration of newcomers is demonstrated. A chapter details the growing extremism of the nativist movement, and the harm caused as they clearcut, bulldoze, herbicide, and burn natural areas around the world in the name of purifying the landscape of the "foreign," even killing endangered species as "invaders."

chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
6:54 PM

Post #5530063

Laws are made in the public's interest. And yes, there's always a political agenda. Don't be fooled - the government didn't decide we should all wear seat belts because they care about us. It was the insurance companies lobbying to lower their claims that pushed that one through. But to dismiss the efforts of thousands of people in this country trying to preserve crucial wildlife habitats is, well, kind of prejudiced.

And no one was talking about destruction of species here. Just talking about choosing to plant something that will stay in your yard versus taking over your neighbor's. Sometimes being a good global citizen takes more than a 'live and let live' approach.

This isn't a political discussion and really shouldn't be an inflammatory one. The fact is the federal and state governments have lists of plants that are banned or restricted here.

I'm always surprised and confused by the emotions surrounding this issue.
LariAnn
Miami, FL
(Zone 10a)

September 9, 2008
6:54 PM

Post #5530065

Gloria, I, too, like my chosen plants. The plants I like to grow, just as your blueberries, raspberries, grapes and such (which I also like) are not aggressive colonizers, so I have to care for them to be sure that they get a chance to mature and produce for me. However, many of these are hybrids and designed for purposes other than "survival of the fittest". So if left alone, they will be overtaken by more aggressive plants and displaced. You did not choose the chinaberries, etc. but nature chose them. If you want to use your 2 acres, you'll have to do the work to clear those out and keep them out, otherwise, nature will attempt to restore some kind of balance. If left alone, this may take years or even centuries, which won't happen because we don't leave land alone that long. So we are left with the work instead. But if we want to establish a garden that is not an ecological balance, we are going to encounter plants that try to grow there in spite of our efforts. That's part of the price we pay to have our gardens and part of our personal responsibility.

If we ever become wise enough and knowledgeable enough to craft an ecologically sound and balanced method of gardening, I believe this problem would fade away. Truly natural and balanced ecosystems are very resistant to "invasion".

On the subject of "invaders" forming monocultures, what about the thousands (millions) of acres of nothing but corn in the midwest? How natural is that? Why are people not railing about that kind of ecological disaster?
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
7:05 PM

Post #5530101

Oh. Yes they are railing. Check out the Sustainable Alternatives forum.

Re: organic meat. Some one has observed (from a UN study) that livestock produce up to 20% of CO2 and other greenhouse cases. Someone else observed that cows normally do not eat corn. When they do they get gassy. I haven't seen the proof that cows are causing global warming, yet, but it has been suggested!
chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
7:10 PM

Post #5530126

LariAnn, we are kindred spirits. That's what makes this such a great forum. I agree that the midwestern corn monoculture is wrong and disastrous. I've been learning about permaculture through readings and seminars and am looking to incorporate the ideas into my own yard. And I couldn't agree with you more about crafting a sound and balanced ecosystem.

I guess my original post was meant for a more casual gardener. Many people I've spoken to (not just on here) don't even know there are invasive species! And another group confuse invasive with aggressive.

Lots of people go to their local store and buy something to plant in their yard that looks pretty, gives them shade, etc. They don't know and don't want to know any more than that. And I'm not saying we all must become experts or take up a cause. Just trying to raise some awareness that otherwise might not happen.

And the only way I think we can get to that ecologically sound and balanced ecosystem is one person at a time.

chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
7:13 PM

Post #5530143

Gloria - I heard a talk given by Bill Curtis on grass-fed beef. He was an anchorman here in Chicagoland and retired to raise, yup, grass-fed beef. So he's obviously not without bias LOL! However, he did say that when cows are fed corn they need e coli to digest it. On a grass diet, no e coli in their systems. Don't know if that's really true or not though.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

September 9, 2008
7:27 PM

Post #5530196

Back to the story and away from the socio-political discussion!!! I am still trying to get rid of the shoots growing from the Mimosa tree I cut down 4 years ago!!! It was used as a quick fix to provide shade where I needed it. It was a beautiful tree but now I just grow one in a container during the warmer months and bury the pot in the garden during winter. Also the previous owner had a Pawlonia growing on the hill behind the house that's been cut down for about ten years now and I'm still fighting it too!!! I am trying to stay native as much as possible these days.

Doug
chatnoir
Downers Grove, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 9, 2008
7:32 PM

Post #5530215

OK. Back to the story. Except I don't have any trees on my property really. Well one. A silver maple. And it is considered a "trash tree" in my area. We just moved here last year so it was already in when I got here. We'll leave it. And I'll continue to pull out all the annoying little seedlings that pop up everywhere.

Next spring we hope to begin work on establishing a small woodland using natives. Won't be using American Elm though - talk about millions of annoying little seedlings. My old house had them sprouting in the gutters, sidewalk cracks, everywhere LOL!
LariAnn
Miami, FL
(Zone 10a)

September 9, 2008
7:42 PM

Post #5530260

Chatnoir, sounds like we are kindred spirits. I do feel that communication is so important in getting to the one person at a time. Being a scientist by training, I strive for accuracy in my communication and that word, "invasive", is so scientifically inaccurate as to heat up my blood. Particularly because some extremists use it as an excuse for destroying whole ecosystems in the cause of eliminating "invaders".

BTW, the book by Theodoropoulos is excellent; I have read it and it is a breath of fresher air in the midst of so much hype and propaganda surrounding the "invasive" question. My own experiences here in south Florida with the "invasive" Florida holly show me that these plants are only as "invasive" as we let them be. My garden is not invaded, and it is not because seeds of these plants don't germinate there. I have all kinds of seeds germinating, but my plants are not overtaken by them. It's not "war of the worlds" here on Earth, at least not yet!
Kelli
L.A. (Canoga Park), CA
(Zone 10a)

September 9, 2008
10:20 PM

Post #5530944

Mustard and wild oats are not native to North America but California grasslands are full of them. The grasslands are so altered that I don't know if anyone knows for sure what their makeup was before the "invasives". All you can say is that there was something else there instead of mustard and wild oats. It was still a grassland, but with a different species makeup. Even where the land has been left alone (no grazing or farming) for decades and the natural fire cycle has been allowed to take place, the mustard and wild oats are still there as much as ever. It seems to be a permanent change to the flora. Whether this is harmful to the wildlife is unknown to me. It's still pretty and not what I would call a degraded habitat.

Thumbnail by Kelli
Click the image for an enlarged view.

gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 9, 2008
11:35 PM

Post #5531230

http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-December/016149.html

Here is another review of David Theodoropoulous' Invasion Biology.
dalfyre
Christchurch
New Zealand

September 15, 2008
11:22 PM

Post #5556245

This has been a fascinating discussion.
New Zealand has gone through some interesting mindshifts regarding plantlife.
The first white settlers brought crop plants & farm animals for practical reasons...
they also brought non-food plants/animals for emotional reasons.
Some of those have settled in & peacefully co-exist with the natives, others have become noxious pests.
Gorse bought in as hedging thrived in NZ conditions & spread like wildfire on land cleared for pasture.
It was ruthlessly eradicated when possible, then some farmers had the radical idea to just leave it & see if native bush would regenerate - to the astonishment of many gorse turned out to be an excellent nursery for native seedlings.
And once the natives were bigger the gorse was the one choked out!
In the urban landscape most councils are now refusing to plant anything but natives.
To the extent that an historic rose garden was slated to be ripped up as too expensive to maintain & replaced with low maintenance tussock & phormiums.
The local rose society offered to take over care of the roses for free & the council relented.
What plants are 'in' or 'out' can depend on whim & fashion just a much as sound reasoning.
Right now our City Council is being lobbied to remove trees that have high pollen counts making them a danger to asthmatics & cause misery to hayfever sufferers.
Silver birch is high on the hit list but remains a popular choice for gardens & public spaces.
It will be interesting to see what the attitude to it is in 10 or 20 years.
Cheers - Dalfyre
New Zealand

gloria125
Greensboro, AL

September 16, 2008
12:07 AM

Post #5556412

I guess that is the definition of sustainability - what will be "in" in 20 years and was 20 years ago. I would say that's a good argument for looking at the plant history of an area - as you have just given us here for New Zealand.

There are people arguing now that these "invasives" are really pioneer plants and if left alone they will just disappear as the ecology develops on its own.

As I drive the miles and miles of kudzu along the roads in the American south its hard to imagine that it would ever be anything other than more and stronger kudzu if left to its own devices.


I really enjoyed your sketch of plant life in New Zealand.

Now I will have to look up "gorse".

Oh. My. I hope roses will always be "IN".

gloria

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