These beauties have given us quite a show this season. Seems the temperate spring has favored both the length of time of the display as well as the vibrant color. When we stop to consider the huge numbers of plants which have spread, worldwide, and which give us so much pleasure, it's hard to condemn "non-native" species as somehow being a blight. As a friend of mine observed the other day, "When someone says a plant they are giving me is invasive, I say bring 'em on! At least it will grow!" I couldn't agree more!
How many of our most treasured flowering plants are "imports?" And where do we draw the line? Loosestrife is targeted as an "unwanted" species now that it's worn out its welcome throughout the entire United States. We are admonished not to plant it near streams, as it will quickly eclipse all other "native" plants. The other day, MM was reading about Garlic Mustard, one of the fastest-spreading, unwanted plants in the U. S. And, oh, dear! I found two at the mailbox.
How do we know if it's an unwanted plant or not...until we try it! A dear friend of mine has planted this unusual specimen in his yard in the Pacific Northwest, and I am thinking about doing the same here in West Virginia.
It's called a Gunnera. It's a tropical plant, but one which adapts quite well to damp, cool climates and boggy circumstances, apparently not concerned about wet feet. It's definitely a conversation starter! But, I am wondering how many non-native oddities have been introduced that give us a good deal of pleasure--pleasure we now take for granted. Who is the "decider" when it comes to outlawing plants with intriguing foliage, fascinating blooms and are beyond doubt, enjoyable curiosities?
Should we feel guilty when it comes to "foreign" plants like the Siberian Iris, Dutch tulips, Asian Lilies, Oriental Poppies, Huecheras and all the other colorful, non-English-speaking flowers? And who is the self-appointed judge of what is acceptable....or not? Not to mention the question of when does a ban on a plant's being imported, begin? Before it's planted here? Or after? If the latter, how effective can "horse-has-left-the-barn" control be? Or, maybe the main factor is our ability to control a plant's tendency to go wild. Or maybe, this crazy plant eradication/control program is designed by Monsanto ....hmmm.
Seed catalogs sell us "wildflower mixes." We are offered the opportunity to enjoy Texas Blue Bonnets and Prairie Blanket Flowers...all across the country. All manner of once-woodland wildflowers abound from sea to shining sea. Any creeping acceptance of new species probably has a more to do with how pretty the plant is, how splashy, rather than whether it will over-reach its original boundaries and ultimately be labeled a nuisance.
When was the last time a customs agent or a baggage inspector asked you if you were carrying any "non-native" plants in your luggage? And, what if you had been, and had been caught, what was the punishment?
In this age of globalization, it seems to me that the world has other more pressing concerns and that "importing" non-native plants is more akin to natural worldwide evolution--the globalization of the plant world.
It's my thinking that chasing down non-native species with a vengeance is a fool's errand. But more than that, if we keep going at the present pace of environmental and species destruction, we'll be glad to have any plants at all! Invasive? Bring 'em on!
Let's label this post a "converation starter." What's your opinion? I'm curious what you think!