Does Invasive Always Equal Evil?

| 6/11/2013 1:11:00 PM

wild yamThis is probably going to make a lot of people mad, but I have a confession: I think many non-native invasive plants are fantastic.

Before you stone me – let me explain.

The entire planet is in a state of constant flux. Cycles of warming, cooling, extinction, floods, earthquakes, glaciers, volcanoes and sea level changes are part of the system. And inside that complex system, there are constant battles between different species. When we get involved, things are sometimes preserved … and sometimes destroyed. Boats, planes, cars and even footsteps have carried plants, animals and insects into places where they’ve never gone before. Government programs have led to land mismanagement that changes the balance of nature while encouraging the planting of terrible mistakes like kudzu, not to mention the eradication of “pest” species that later turned out to be important to maintaining a healthy ecological balance (remember the Yellowstone wolf eradication program?). Over time, termites have arrived in wooden crates … mosquito larvae traveled in water-filled tires … pretty plants like air potatoes have been spread by unsuspecting little old ladies … weed seeds have traveled in sod… the list goes on and on and on.

It’s enough to give any USDA inspector a major headache. No one wants to see chestnuts fall by the millions to an introduced blight … or watch entire forests be devoured by vines … or worry if a newly arrived beetle is going to spread a killer fungus into their prized avocado tree.

But at the same time – sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Did you know that Monsanto funds native plant initiatives? It seems that for every “pest” plant that shows up, there’s the same answer: RoundUp! Is killing all these invasive plants the right thing to do?

Perhaps in the case of some of them, we should just let nature find its own path? Even better, what if we put some of the invasives to work for us?

6/16/2013 8:00:41 AM

Round-up is a poor solution, but I'm not sure that we should be embracing the invasives.

Those invasives are crowding out all the plants that belong...  Your experience with cogon grass is but one example of an exotic coming in and becoming a monoculture...

In my observations, round-up kills far more than the target species, and generally aggravates the problem, as those invasives tend to be tolerant of the poison... and the natives often have zero resistance.

It's important to think outside of the box, and if there's any way of utilizing those exotics that are already on the site, while limiting their spread, seems worth looking into.

6/13/2013 9:19:33 AM

You need to give people who manage invasive plant species more credit - the ability to distinguish between plants that are economic, agricultural, and natural area pests with potential to cause great harm is well developed.  Invasive plant managers have very little money to work with, and are very careful about not wasting their efforts on non-native plants that do not pose threats.

BTW, the best was to insure the rapid colonization of water hyacinth of public waterways in our nation is to encourage private landowners to have their own private production pools.  History has show us time and time again that the plants will inevitably escape into the wild.  I myself use invasive water chestnut for compost, but would never ever think of trying to grow it in a pool on my property.

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