Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The One About the Native Plants Purist, Part I

Ardisia elliptica. Native to: South Asia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

1. PATSP is attacked!

On December 7, some anonymous person showed up on the Ardisia elliptica profile and dropped a big ol' douchebomb on me for owning one and writing a profile about it. I was called irresponsible, stupid, ridiculous, and silly, because of Ardisia's potential to become invasive and "rape" (his/r word1) ecosystems. It's so rapey, in fact, that its sale is actually illegal in Florida. I actually spent quite a bit of time on the plant's invasive tendencies in the profile itself, which you'd think would let this person know that, minimally, what s/he2 was telling me wasn't news, but you know how people get.

When I pointed out that I live in USDA Zone 5 Iowa, and Ardisia elliptica is not cold-hardy past Zone 9, and that furthermore the plant has been indoors for essentially its entire life, and was therefore not going to be raping anything, much less an entire ecosystem, his response was that it didn't matter, because his stumbling across my blog "proved" that I had South Florida readers,3 and what if one of them were moved to buy the plant because of my profile?

Which, you know, whatever. If its sale is in fact illegal in Florida, then South Florida readers won't be buying it anyway, so I don't quite get how this is a concern. But if you actually read the profile, it's not even especially glowing. I mean, yes, the plant makes a good, possibly even excellent, houseplant. It really does. I'm not going to apologize for saying so. But I think it's clear that I'm not advocating planting it in South Florida, or Hawaii, or anywhere else it might become invasive, and in fact am specifically telling people not to, at some length. So, you know, what the fuck, dude?

Tradescantia spathacea. Native to: Tropical and subtropical North and South America. A Florida Category 2 invasive plant.

2. North American plants.

The conversation went on from there, various rudenesses were fired from both sides, and if you want to see the blow-by-blow you can go to the Ardisia elliptica profile and read the comments for yourself. But the reason I bring it up in the first place, aside from the obvious pleasure it will bring me to see other people join me in calling him a jackass and douchebag,4 is because he did say one thing that surprised me a little: I don't understand why you can't just be happy with North American plants.

It hadn't really occurred to me that this was something especially desirable, because, again, it all stays indoors, all the time, and so it's totally irrelevant where any of the plants come from. But okay, fine, let's see.

And it turns out that there are very few North American plants suitable for indoor cultivation. The bulk of those which are tend to be cactus and succulent species from Northern Mexico and the U.S. Desert Southwest;5 to get anything at all lush and green, you either have to go south, to the rainforests of South Mexico,6 or north, to the U.S.7 And anyway, since when do native plant purists consider it good enough merely to get the right continent? Species from North America can and do become invasives when planted in other parts of North America; for example, Syngonium podophyllum is invasive in Florida, but native to Mexico and Central America. So to be really satisfactory, I'd have to limit myself to plants native to the Upper Mississippi Valley, or maybe even the state of Iowa specifically. And you know what? Iowa doesn't have a climate much like the modern American home, so the modern American home isn't a good place to grow plant species native to Iowa. Not saying it couldn't be done, but it wouldn't be very comfortable for the humans involved.

Which Anonymous might counter with, well why do you even need houseplants at all? Can't you just be happy growing stuff outside? Which is such an obviously stupid question that it shouldn't be dignified with a response, so I won't.8

Schefflera actinophylla. Native to: Australia, New Guinea. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

3. Invasiveness is predictable.

The thing is, though, this is all idiotic. Most plants aren't invasive. I mean, I think there's been so much of a fuss made about invasives in certain circles that people honestly think that anything introduced is bad.9 Also, invasive plants share certain characteristics: rapid growth, ability to self-pollinate, production of a lot of seeds, seeds that spread to new places via bird droppings or via wind, poisonous or inedible foliage, the ability to regenerate from a piece of root or rhizome, that sort of thing. These are measurable and observable qualities of the plants, and it's possible to make pretty solid advance guesses as to how big of a problem a plant is likely to be. Indeed, there are sites on-line where one can see the results of such assessments, like for example (HEAR = Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk).10

And most plants, native or not, behave themselves just fine. On-line conversations get heated about natives vs. exotics, and people get defensive about whether or not they should have the right to plant potentially invasive non-natives in their garden -- because of course they are good and responsible and would never let such a plant spread in ecosystem-damaging ways11 -- but whatever benefits there are to native plants, it's still not useful or accurate to be treating all plants like invasives just because they're from elsewhere.

(I've seen one person, who apparently meant it, say in a blog comment that "every plant is invasive somewhere." This is not even a little bit true, alas. It's a shame it isn't, because then we'd have the endangered-plant problem completely solved: all we'd have to do would be to introduce the endangered plants to all the available ecosystems until they found one they liked, and voila, endangered species saved! I mean, of course they'd be saved by becoming invasive and endangering something else, but that's easy enough to fix -- we'll just move the newly endangered plants around until they find something they like. Reshuffle the deck fast enough, and none of the cards will disappear.)

This hypervigilance against exotic species reaches amazing new heights of stupidity and dogmatism when you're talking about an "invasive" that can't freeze, being grown in Iowa, or when you're talking about the invasive potential of a plant that stays inside year-round. Plants that don't go outdoors don't become invasive, even if they might really, really want to. Plants that die from freezing temperatures aren't going to invade anything even if they're thrown on the compost pile. So, you know, chill the fuck out already.

Epipremnum aureum. Native to: South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Northern Australia, Solomon Islands. (I was surprised by this, as I'd always heard that they were native to the Solomon Islands and that's it. But GRIN says otherwise.) A Florida Category 2 invasive plant.

4. Is the Florida Legislature in the pocket of Big Ardisia?

My anonymous persecutor12 did make one point which is very nearly valid, which was that because the plants I buy are mostly grown in Florida, it doesn't matter whether I'm right or wrong about Ardisias being invasive in Iowa.13 By buying the plant and encouraging others to do so, I'm creating a demand for a plant which may harm the area in which it is being produced. The reason this is only very nearly valid, and not actually valid, is that I am not responsible for writing and enforcing legislation in the state of Florida. Ardisia elliptica is supposed to be illegal in Florida: you can't plant or even own them, if you're an ordinary Florida citizen.

So how is it that certain companies are permitted to mass-produce Ardisia for sale?14 Indeed, if Ardisias are that abundant in the wild, to the point where they're wrecking ecosystems and stuff, why not just send people out to pull them up, throw them in pots, and ship them to zone 5, where they will eventually die an ungainly death? You get rid of the plants, you get money back for doing it. Why bother growing them in greenhouses, on purpose, at all?

Or! For my purposes as a consumer, it really doesn't matter to me whether my plants are grown in Florida, Texas, or on the third moon of the planet Zecuponia 7.15 There's every reason to think that they could be grown right here in Iowa, in fact: my personal plant has bloomed and formed berries, and I'm assuming that the seeds within the berries can be germinated if they ever get around to ripening. There's no reason why someone couldn't start a greenhouse in Iowa to produce Ardisias for other people in cold climates; I imagine the main reason that nobody does is because nobody could compete with Florida prices.16

If escaped Ardisias really are despoiling the natural Florida ecosystem -- and I'm not saying they aren't -- then I have to wonder why they're still being cultivated there. Is the Ardisia industry bringing in that much money and that many jobs? Do Floridians just not care that much about their ecosystems? Are sinister lobbyists for Big Ardisia convincing Florida legislators that there isn't really a problem, and any government oversight on Ardisia production would ruin Florida's economy forever? Is my anonymous anti-invasive friend perhaps a little overwrought and testerical?17 I don't know. But in any case, the state of Florida has it in its power to completely remove the apparently grave threat posed by PATSP and other Ardisia advocates, by not cultivating them there on purpose, and they don't do it.

Lantana camara 'Landmark Yellow.' Native to: Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Northern South America. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

5. Can the toothpaste be put back in the tube?

Finally, even assuming that I accepted the premise that Ardisias are ruining everything, and stopped writing about them in any but the most disparaging terms, destroying them in garden centers whenever I came across them, exactly what would be accomplished? It's like telling someone not to say anything pleasant about starlings, lest someone be moved to keep one as a pet. That particular toothpaste is already out of the tube, and unless the entire state of Florida mobilizes to find and destroy Every. Single. Ardisia within its borders, and search every vehicle entering the state from top to bottom, it's now part of the Florida ecosystem. Period.

Complete eradication of an invasive species is the sort of thing that really requires a commitment from an entire state's government and population in order to be successful, and that's clearly not happening in Florida. Also, I'm not even sure that invasive plants and animals are ever completely eradicated. Maybe on small islands, where the chances of re-introduction from outside are minimal, and the population is constrained by the limited land area. Maybe then. But for all the effort put into trying to control and remove Asian carp, sparrows, Caulerpa taxifolia, garlic mustard, kudzu, multiflora rose, pigeons, gypsy moths, purple loosestrife, Hessian fly, cane toads, nutria, zebra mussels, lampreys, rabbits, cottony cushion scale, rhesus monkeys, rosy wolfsnails, monk parakeets, varroa mites, spotted knapweed, English ivy, gray squirrel, leafy spurge, brown tree snakes, dandelions, fire ants, tree of heaven, northern snakeheads, water hyacinth, crown of thorns starfish, and the many, many other problem species out there, in the various places they've wreaked havoc -- have any of them actually been eliminated? Is this a problem that ever gets fixed?

I don't exactly mean to say that since Ardisia elliptica is already in the wild, we ought to just give up and let it take over, just that there is a choice to be made here. Either Floridans specifically, and the U.S. in general, need to commit to eradication of the species, come up with a way to make controlling them more economical, or give up and let them take over. Because if you don't put enough money toward fixing this problem, you may as well just be throwing it away, year after year after year. And this is never, ever going to be dealt with properly if special exceptions are made for commercial plant growers. Hurricanes do happen, buildings do get knocked down: any plant being cultivated or mass-produced can get out and start the whole thing over again.

(Come back on Friday for the exciting conclusion. I promise a solution to the Ardisia elliptica problem, sentient molluscs, and wild speculation on what happens to gardeners in MRI machines.)


Photo credits: all my own.

1 Which for various reasons kind of bothers me: I tend to think that, all else being equal, the word rape should mean rape, and not being defeated in video games, made to pay taxes, or any of the various other things it is sometimes intended to mean. It's not even a very good metaphor for those things, as metaphors go. This use of the word, w/r/t the environment, has some historical precedent, and I used it right back in my reply, in the same way, so I'm probably not the best person to be raising objections. But even so, it does seem like there should be a line somewhere.
2 I'm almost positive that the anonymous commenter was male, due in large part to "his" use of the rape metaphor and obvious comfortableness in wandering onto a stranger's blog and calling its author irresponsible without, apparently, actually reading the post "he" was objecting to. Technically, I don't know, but I'm going to go with "he" for the rest of the post, because . . . he's obviously a guy.
3 If you want to be nitpicky, it really only proves that I have had one South Florida reader. Though I know I've had others, so fine, point taken.
4 (Well, you'd better.)
5 Examples: Echinocactus grusonii, Pachyphytum ovatum, Agave victoriae-reginae, Beaucarnea recurvata, Leuchtenbergia principis.
6 Anthurium podophyllum, Syngonium podophyllum, Chamaedorea metallica, Dieffenbachia spp., Selenicereus chrysocardium.
7 Tolmiea menziesii is native to the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A lot of carnivorous plants, for some reason, are from the continental U.S. and/or Canada, though none of them are particularly well-suited for cultivation indoors in someone's living room or office. (Dionaea muscipula is from the border between North and South Carolina, but also Sarracenia, Darlingtonia, Pinguicula and Drosera are all partly or totally North American genera.)
There are also a number of species which are occasionally claimed to be from the continental U.S., though the evidence is sketchy. Philodendron hederaceum, Phlebodium aureum, Peperomia obtusifolia, and Pedilanthus tithymaloides might be native to South Florida, Stenocereus thurberi may be native to Arizona, and Tradescantia zebrina and pallida might be native to South Texas.
8 And anyway, I shouldn't have to defend myself against things I imagine some jackass might ask. We'd be here all damn day.
9 An argument could be made that any introduced species is technically harmful to the native ecosystem, because even if it's behaving itself, it takes up space which could belong to a native. I mean, domesticated corn (Zea mays) is all but helpless to reproduce itself without human intervention, because we've bred them to be like that, so it's about as far from invasive as you could get. At the same time, the big cornfield at the end of my back yard is still taking up space that could be native Iowa prairie, full of native trees, butterflies, birds, leeches, or whatever, and so it still hurts the environment even if it were being cultivated with the most attention possible to fertilizer runoff, pesticide use, erosion, and so forth. (Which I doubt it is, but that's something for another post.)
I forgive this loss to the environment because, basically, I like to eat food. I find it helps me to stay alive, and staying alive has been a goal of mine for a good fifteen years now. Which is also a matter for another post.
10 HEAR assesses Ardisia elliptica as having a high risk of invasive and disruptive behavior (see assessment page), which is a lot like closing the barn door after the horse has already become an invasive plant. (A. elliptica is already all over Hawaii in the way that "Ghost Whisperer" is all over basic cable.) But it's cute that they're trying.
11 Which is no doubt perfectly true of many of the people saying this. However: everybody thinks they're responsible and conscientious people who would never do anything harmful, even the people who are obviously not. So we can't really go by someone's self-assessment.
Also, even people who are responsible citizens can be distracted away from taking care of their gardens, for example by dying, or having to move suddenly, and there's no way you can guarantee that these things won't end up happening to you. I.e., I'm not trying to call anybody irresponsible or immature exactly, just saying that if you deliberately plant something known to be invasive in your climate or climates similar to yours, or a plant which strongly resembles known invasives, your intentions and plans don't count for shit, because you are not in absolute control of what happens.
12 (Help, help, I'm being oppressed!)
13 (SPOILER: I am right.)
14 This is not a problem specific to Ardisia elliptica, either -- the same supplier was sending us a number of different plants which were Category 1 invasives in Florida. (Category 1: plants that have been determined to cause ecological damage in the state already. Category 2 invasives have expanded their ranges but have not yet provably hurt anything.) The Category 1 invasives they were shipping to us: Ardisia crenata, Ficus microcarpa, Lantana camara, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Schefflera actinophylla, and Syngonium podophyllum.
We also got the following Florida Category 2 invasives from Florida: Chamaedorea seifrizii, Epipremnum aureum, Jasminum sambac, Livistonia chinensis, Murraya paniculata, Pteris vittata, and Tradescantia spathacea. The full list of Category 1 and 2 plants as of the year 2009 is available as a .pdf file here.
So it's not just a matter of the Florida horticultural industry having a special exemption for Ardisia: they apparently have an exemption for everything. One hopes that this is because they have tough-as-nails regulators breathing down their necks at all times to make sure they don't accidentally do anything that's going to harm their native ecosystems -- I mean, aside from the harm that happens when you pave over large expanses of native ecosystem in order to construct gigantic greenhouses on them -- but it's probably actually that they get a special exemption because the city leaders want to be business-friendly or some such, or because they've convinced the regulators that there isn't really a problem, or because the regulatory agencies are so underfunded that they don't even try enforcing the rules for these plants. America is frequently fucked-up in this way.
But either way, what this tells me is that either 1) the citizens and elected officials of the state of Florida are just not that into their natural ecosystems, or 2) that the problem is not nearly as serious as Anonymous indicated, and Ardisia is not raping the environment so much as making unwanted sexual comments to it. I lean toward #1, having had some experience watching politicians ignore environmental issues.
15 (But not the seventh moon of Zecuponia 3! I mean, there's carnivorous plants, and then there's carnivorous plants, amirite?)
16 Heating a greenhouse in Iowa is not cheap, as I was informed way more often and emphatically than necessary while working at the garden center.
17 Testerical. (tess-TEAR-ih-cull) (from testes, by parallel with hysterical) Adj. 1. Exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion; irrational. Said of men. See also n. testeria.


Hermes said...

What a good, thought provoking post. I think it is right and responsible to point out (in a polite way!) that we do have to be careful with some plants, in some parts. I actually do grow some British natives indoors in cooler parts of my flat and they do well. I don't pick them from the wild.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Great post. Don't let anonymous (who was entertaining, if nothing else) get to you. You get all kinds in this world. I don't mind if someone expresses their opinion on a matter in a polite way, but when they start with the name calling and insults, I'm no longer interested. Intelligent people argue intelligently.

Claude said...

Well, here in Texas, we do grow a lot of natives outside, as our climate is tough and not a lot of plants will adapt here... however, we're talking about house plants. I'm certainly not going to tell the little old ladies down the block they can't grow their african violets, or thier "ivies" (read potus, and btw I certainly saw enough of potus climbing trees in yards in Florida...) but it sounds like since he can't grow the dang thing in Florida, he seems to be of the opinion that nobody else can either which is a little childish... As for the plant in question... it's not one that appeals to me, but if I was looking for a big leafy green plant in the house I suppose it would be a reasonable option, and the fact that it is illegal in Florida wouldn't stop me as I'm not in Florida.

In your footnotes, you take on the word rape... while it's used almost exclusively in modern language to describe sexual crimes, their is a historical use as "ruin, pillage or destroy" As in "the armies raped the countryside" so it is a valid use of the word... if a little overly dramatic, as I don't think a plant, no matter how unwanted, can actually attack... unless we're talking about kudzu. That stuff is just evil...

Liza said...

Zing! Take that jackass! Good job, mr_s!

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for common sense, seasoned with some understanding. Yes, there are problems with invasive plants. Yes, in most cases the horse is out of the barn door. And even here in Eskimoland Maine, I find that common plants are suddenly surprising us by acting horridly invasive. So I ripped out my (reproducing) Berberis and Euonymous and I say politely to nursery owners that I wish they would cease selling those plants. Heck, even those lovely Japanese maples have turned thuggish. But none of this requires insults as your blog points out. And while we're at it folks, stop dumping your goldfish in wild ponds and turning your pythons loose. My houseplants have all they can do to live inside up here and I'll grow what I darn well want. (Until the Tillandsias start attacking the spruce, at least.)

Unknown said...

I need to think more carefully the next time I'm attacked by a member of the Church of Green here in Portland OR. This post will come to mind. I sometimes hide my ivy topiaries since ivy is now illegal to sell here. I only have the unique potted slower growing kinds, but just the sight of it can send people off.

As for NA native houseplants, this is an interesting idea. We have some here in the NW that might actually make it in a person's home if given enough humidity. I'm going to have to think about this. I have never seen a sword fern indoors, or our native Epimedium, buy both might make it. Now I have a project for next winter!

Karen715 said...

Excellent post. And "testerical" is entering my vocabulary in a big way. It suits some of the guys I know to a T.

wiseacre said...

I love a good story where reason, logic and facts combats the league of little knowledge and blind belief.

I had a similar email response back in the day. (Before Blogs) A visitor demanded I take my Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) page off my web site. She too strengthened her case by calling me a few assorted names. Nothing changed because of our discussion. The page is still up and I'd bet she's still talking out of her asters.

Joseph said...

Great post! I get so tired of native plant freaks. (Not to be confused with native plant coll people).
I also second what Claude about your rape footnote -- the broader definition is the more historically accurate one.

cconz said...

The world is full of JAckAsses, most talk out of their ass.
I HAVE planted a few invasive plants in my yard with no problems. They (winter kill) here in iowa. But, i have had a neighbor pull up my datura and mullin. He says he can't help it, he used to be a farmer and said he fought every year with those plants in his fields.

Lance said...

I guess as your list of non-natives that are now everywhere points out - it's sometimes hard to determine native for certain. What is native in Hawaii anyway - nothing, it was born of lava and all species arrived from other locales. I agree some plants have to be carefully monitored and tended, kudzu being a prime example. But I think it's really a rather short list.

mr_subjunctive said...

Just to clarify:

I am emphatically not saying that I don't think invasive species are a problem, or that once something is invasive in a particular location, that gives everybody permission to plant as much of it as they want. Some plants, in some places, are never a good idea, and Ardisia elliptica in Florida is one of those situations, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, Mr. Anonymous and I are in agreement on that much, and I more or less support a ban on selling them there. Where we differ is in his idea that they shouldn't be sold anywhere, or that they "should" only exist in the areas where they're native.

I am also not saying that people who want to grow only native plants, out of concern for their local environments or a desire to provide habitat for local wildlife or whatever other reason, are bad or stupid people. There are good reasons to plant natives, if you like them. If these people don't try to force me to do it in my yard or (especially) home, we're fine.

I am saying that it makes no sense at all to ban sales of a plant and permit its mass production in the exact same location, and that this tells me something new and exciting about the screwiness of the Florida Legislature.

I am saying that being more careful about what we bring into a new location in the first place, even for "green" and "beneficial" reasons. (The Asian ladybugs that are all over the place in Iowa now originally were brought here to help control crop pests in an environmentally sound way, and instead they're outcompeting the native ladybugs. And they bite, which the natives don't.) Because it is much easier to keep something from arriving in the first place than it is to get rid of it once it's there, spreading around on its own.

Some of these things will be hit a little harder in Friday's Part II.


Also, Ficurinia:

I'm a little hesitant to endorse the growing of even the slower, more well-behaved English ivies. Most of the invasive Hedera problem, as I understand it, is from H. hibernica, not from H. helix, and the varieties of helix with the more variegated, finely-divided leaves are slower and more manageable, and less-likely to become a problem. I do understand this.

However, H. helix is also one of those plants prone to throwing off sports, which may well grow more invasively than the original plant, and an outdoor plant that's left to its own devices long enough -- even of the more benign varieties -- will still eventually develop mature foliage and start blooming and setting fruits, which can be spread by birds. I read a lot of conflicting stuff about how likely or un- this all is while writing the post, and I'm not exactly saying I'm with the Portland Green Police on this. It's okay with me if you want to grow Hedera helix there, but per footnote 11, you still need to be vigilant about the plants and aware of what they're doing, if you have them outside at all.

If they're strictly indoor or porch plants, then as far as I'm concerned you can tell the Church of Green to go Fuchsia itself, because in those conditions they're not going to get anywhere else anyway.

Lance said...

Makes me think of Virgina Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) - I don't hear much discussion if it, nor do I really know it's origin. But it does grow everywhere and can be difficult to contain. Having spent last Sunday pulling, spraying, cutting, and hacking just to find my patio under it; I just wondered if it was considered a 'rapist', or as you suggest, merely a lewd commentator.

James said...

I always considered it one of the perks of living somewhere with a bit more of an extreme climate that we didn't have to worry quite as much about invasive species. (Back when I lived somewhere with any climate to speak of.) Living in Hawaii makes for nice weather, but almost everything has the potential to be invasive there (with exceptions like my beloved Zea mays.)

mr_subjunctive said...


Parthenocissus quinquefolia is native to basically the whole Eastern side of North America, from Quebec down to Guatemala, according to GRIN. So it's supposed to be here. Maybe the metaphor is an abusive spouse? Or spoiled teenager? Drunken townie?

Laura said...

I laughed and laughed. Then laughed some more. You made some great points. S/he made some ludicrous ones. All and all I was emensly amused. Keep up the good work!

Lance said...

I kind of thought it was native, but not to this area.

Maybe drunken spoiled teenager - it is getting all over everything and making a mess.

Ivynettle said...

Every time I read about invasive plants, I feel a bit gladder about living in good old Europe, and in a not-too-warm country - there are all of two invasive plant species that I can think of. (Might have learned about more back in school, but I've never seen more than two.)

Anonymous said...

The anonymous Mr. Rude might better spend his time taking on the sugar industry in Florida than in attacking innocent (well, nearly) bloggers. I can't think of many invasives that have done more damage to Florida's fragile ecosystem than the conversion of the Everglades to a monoculture - how many Florida natives have they displaced? And yes, I've worked in Florida as an ecologist and natural resource researcher.

mr_subjunctive said...


In fairness to Mr. Rude, he said in one of the initial comments that he was worked up over Ardisia elliptica specifically because he'd had to spend parts of a Botany class uprooting them and/or spraying herbicides to keep them under control. I mean, not that this excuses the rudeness, just that I would be a lot more focused on Ardisia than sugar cane too, if I'd recently spent an afternoon (or whatever) out in the hot Florida sun pulling them up.

Paul said...

Don't wrestle with pigs. You get very dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Lynne said...

Very interesting post. Most people (or at least, gardeners) display common sense, and I imagine gardeners make up the vast majority of gardening blogs. I'm from New Zealand and often give a wistful sigh when reading about plants in your American gardens which are on the banned list here because of their tendencies to take over in our more moderate climate. Cobaea Scandens is one that springs to mind immediately. Would I take the opportunity to buy the seeds in the States and sneak them home? Of course not. I think readers like anonymous seem to think in their arrogance that the rest of us are stupid and that only they could possibly be smart enough to tell the difference between a desirable plant in a certain environment, and an undesirable. Sigh. There will always be people like him/her. The rest of us must rise above it ;-)

Laddie said...

I nearly died laughing reading that.

"It also spends 99.9%+ of its time in the living room, where it has so far not raped anybody.

Rest assured that if it ever does rape somebody, or if it even looks like it's thinking about it, it will be destroyed immediately."

That part got me the most dead.

Mr Brown Thumb said...

Timely post. I was just thinking about a "Piggyback Plant" (Tolmiea menziesii) the other day and remembering reading in a book that it was the only native plant suitable for growing indoors.

Thomas said...

Funny, but sad - "I have to save the world, and it's all your fault."

After I read this post earlier, I read an article in the NY Times about the pythons in Florida, which was just sad. Sounds like Florida has a problem with invasives in general, but since they were set loose by Floridians, why attack PATSP?

Some comments by anonymous in the exchange grabbed my attention though, one was a '..arranged for centuries..' (just centuries???), another about '..the way nature's organized..', and a general this is the way things are supposed to be and who are you to mess with things. This from a Botany class? If there were an id/creationist eco-activist movement, is this what it would sound like? Can I be annoyed now, or do I need to be confused first?

Unknown said...

Because I'm behind in everything in my life, I didn't see this post when it first came up. I'm sorry you had to combat a Floridiot (happily, not all Floridians deserve that epithet) but as usual you mastered him with class, logic, and of course, dazzling humour. Or Humor. Off to read Part the Second now...

Aaerelon said...

You're just fantastic. I agree with you on everything. Lantana is invasive somewhere? WTF?

mr_subjunctive said...


Actually, Lantana is invasive everywhere. It's kinda ridiculous. I should maybe note that I'm not positive that the Lantana in the photo is L. camara; there are other, better-behaved Lantanas. But camara is actually on the 100 Worst Invasive Alien Species list. The list maybe isn't super-official, but still, somebody's taken the time to look through all the plants and animals out there and pick out 100 really bad ones, and it's in there, right up there with goats, carp and rats. Ardisia elliptica is on the list too.

A lot of the issue with Lantana as I understand it is the toxicity: nothing can eat it, so once they're established, they don't go anywhere. It's also an allelopath, and suppresses the growth of any nearby plants.

forest said...

I took a class on restoration ecology, so of course I had to read this blog entry/rant. The class pretty much agreed: once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's out. We also discussed "what is native? How do you define it? What time scale do you use to define it? What distance do you use to define it?" Which you pretty much covered (something to think about: "Italian cypress," which pretty much defines Tuscany, is not native to Italy, but Iran).

In the class was mentioned, however, that invasive species are not always predictable. Sometimes it takes a critical mass before the species hits a trajectory of invasiveness, which can take a number of years. I forget which plant was mentioned, but an article we read mentioned one that took about 20 years to reach that critical mass.