There are three certainties in life, death, taxes and change; two of which are applicable to our botanical world. Historical data has proven that nature is in a constant flux of change, some species survive and some become extinct – this is botanical evolution. No matter what changes have occurred over the eons, ecosystems adapt accordingly and carry on.
Non-native plants have been on North American soils for hundreds of years and ecosystems have adapted. Many of these naturalized plants have proven to be invaluable sources of food and used in various herbal preparations. Yes, some of these have made themselves at home and have become aggressive in some habitats. Although it is sad that some plants are unable to compete with these aggressors, whether we like it or not, nature will take care of things – it always has and it always will. It is worth mentioning that non-natives do not hold the monopoly on being categorized as invasive. There are native plants, shrubs, trees, and so on that is categorized as invasive such as:
Cronus stolinifera, Rhus glabra, Rhus hirta, Hydrophyllum virginianum, Laportea canadensis, and so on.
Transportation of Seeds
Nature is mostly responsible for the transport of seeds (and nutrients) from one area to another. For example:
• An estimated 22,000 tons of phosphorus per year reaches the Amazon soils from the Saharan desert. In fact, NASA data shows that wind and weather pick up on average 182 million tons (almost 700,000 semi trucks filled) of African dust every year and takes it to various destinations in the Americas depending on wind currents and storms.
• Science Daily reports that migratory birds can carry seeds either via their digestive system or caught in their feathers up to 300 kilometres. When dropped, if conditions are favourable, then a new species may flourish.
• Storms whip up soil and can send seeds hundreds of kilometres.
• People also transport seeds.
Whether it be people, the weather, or migratory birds, over the decades, new species have arrived and they will continue to do so, especially with the changes in climate. Wanted or not, new species will continue to take root if nature provides the right conditions for them. Some of these naturalized plants have already shown to have proliferated at astronomical rates. Most invasive plants, one way or another, have some benefits for us. Here are some examples:
Phragmites – Used as insulation, bio fuel, roofing, food, and it has medicinal qualities.
Garlic mustard – Many health benefits and a great source of nutrient-dense food.
Poison ivy – A valuable food source for over 60 species of birds and some insects, and medicinal qualities.
Giant hogweed – Young plants are fodder for sheep and cattle. Seeds are used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Japanese knotweed – Plant extracts are successful at treating some people with Lyme disease, excellent source of food with many health benefits.
It is evident by researching European and Asian journals, magazines and other scientific documents that they have taken invasive species and worked with them not against them. By doing so, there are proven ways to not only help sustain local ecosystems but to benefit by using “invasives” to our advantage.
Here in North America there is an endless amount of time and energy spent complaining about invasive species, whereas in my opinion, this energy could be better spent by following successful European projects that have proven there is a win-win when controlling invasive plants.
Nature takes care of itself and more times than not, when people try to control nature, nature wins. A perfect example of this is pigweed. This edible weed has defied all attempts at eradication in farmer fields across the U.S. (probably Canada too). It has caused an enormous amount of time and energy to be spent in an attempt to control it. Nature is telling us this plant is here to stay so it has armed this plant with the ability to grow up to 8cm (3”) per day, reaching heights of up to 2.5 metres (8′) and each female plant can produce more than 1 million seeds.
Our planet has taken care of itself for millions of years and it will continue to do so for as long as planet Earth is here. Botanical evolution is a given and we need to work with it, not against it.
To be a true environmentalist in the 21st century means celebrating nature’s diversity, wilderness and capacity for change. Remember – nature is always the last one up to bat.
Finally an article that is a breath of fresh air. Every plant has a purpose even if we don’t know it. Too much arrogance out there with those who think they can save the world. Hello – extinctions happen all the time – wake up people..it is part of life!!!! Thanks for an excellent article!!
Yes the arrogance is thick.
Hello there! 🙂 I have lived in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania in a town called Connellsville all my life. 9 years ago we moved out to the country side of Connellsville. About 10-15 feet off my back porch is nothing but woods (so it’s like half farmland and half woods everywhere).. I have watched over the last 9 years Japanese honeysuckle over taken alot of my back yard along the woods line! It has actually killed a crab apple tree a bunch of deer frequent right on the edge of the woods. My 8, 5 and 3 year old daughters loved watching the deer in the summer time eating off the tree!
Just in the last year I have been getting into all the ‘weeds’ in my yard and along the edges of the woods but I have never seen a plant so invasive as the Japanese honeysuckle! This year it has creeped into our garden!! My husband keeps cutting it back but, dang!! It’s a persistent bugger!!
What the guy above said!! You have approached this issue with a brain not emotion. Too many tree huggers that have no appreciation or ability for logical thinking!!!
You know with all the negativity out there about these plants it is BEYOND refreshing to see someone who has a brain and uses it. Indeed there is a purpose for all plants. So what if some plants disappear it is like you said, natural evolution. Thank you and please keep up this incredible work you do!
I agree, I have learned that you can manage invasive plants and they usually die off only to be replaced by native. I am glad I have honeysuckle research has shown it stimulates the heart to repair when damaged. I grow it and it has not gotten out of control on my property. I noticed it does not like the competition of native plants and does not do well around them they keep it in check.
You have hit the nail on the head and thank you. Too many complain and it is nature now whether they like it or not. The arrogance of people trying to control nature. I think Carlin used to joke about this arrogance.
I finally tried the autumn olive because of you saying how wonderful it tasted. I had heard from so many that it did not taste good so never tried it. I am addicted to them. They are amazing. You have opened my eyes to so many foods I was overlooking. Not only that your recipes are amazing. Thanks for all your hard work. I found tons of autumn olives and I cannot wait to see what all I can make with them.
Nice! Glad to hear you are now enjoying these Lee! Thank you for the kind words and your support!
You have got it!!! Your article is so true and thank you! People have to be so arrogant sometimes. But do you see the places that condemn these plants? They get a paycheck and they don’t even fully learn about these plants – shame!
Reading this is like breathing fresh air; finally someone who thinks land writes logically. THANK YOU
Oh my, thank you!!!