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[Aroid-l] Our Native Flora

  • Subject: [Aroid-l] Our Native Flora
  • From: Ted.Held@hstna.com
  • Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 10:50:36 -0400

I think the whole invasive species thing is something to pay attention to. But realistically, it is a horse that has left the barn long ago. I know when I look upon a fallow field here in the American Midwest, that almost everything I see is a non-native species. Time after time I find a plant I don't recognize. And when I get back to my references I find that it is non-native. The flowers (knotweed, Queen Anne's Lace) are non-native. And the grasses are usually non-native. I think most of these species arrived on these shores as unintended contaminants in crop seeds and by other passive methods. Some are intentional introductions, as we know. Most of those were done (i.e. kudzu, Melaleuca) with good intentions. Later we found that it wasn't a good idea. This is not a malignancy but a reflection of our relative innocence in times past. People, especially plant people, are not the devil.

The fact, however, is that we need to address the world as it is. That is to say, we have a North America full of plants that were not here 500 years ago. Maybe this is an inexorable force of nature. But there it is. I predict that many of our natives will be preserved only as horticultural specimens, never to return to their original dominance. That's hardly a revelation to those on this list. There are many efforts afoot to try to control plants and animals that are out of control. The Nature Conservancy, for example, regularly solicits volunteer efforts to chop and pull non-native invasives from preserves that they control. That is probably a labor of Sisyphus in that it will be something they need to do for ever. But no one should think that the little efforts in their backyard plots will have much effect. So I refuse to grow a Purple Loosestrife. Fine. But the fact that all of my surrounding drainage ditches contain abundant specimens, producing huge numbers of seeds, will continue to be the fact that determines the direction of the ecology of my region.

Just watch it when you think it would be nice to naturalize some new plant. Take care when disposing of cuttings and seed pods if you live where they might just take hold. Be humble about what you think you know. You aren't as smart as you might like to think.
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