paul has a new video  

 



visit the thread.

see the DVDs.

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

the dark side of native plant enthusiasm  RSS feed

 
Posts: 214
12
books chicken hugelkultur solar tiny house urban
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My approach has always been to plant ONLY plants which are native to this planet. It has never steered me wrong.
 
Posts: 42
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul Wheaton, sometimes you are annoying any sometimes you say things I don't agree with. Sometimes you say things I do agree with in an annoying way. But SOMETIMES, you say things that are so on point that my mind is turned inside out with an amazing essay that goes places I never would have thought to think. They are (like this one) mostly of the form: "X is a good thing, but it's more complicated than that. Have you thought of ..."

Thanks for being you. I'm glad I live in a world with you in it. I look forward to further annoyance.
 
Posts: 42
Location: Gaspésie/BSL, QC Zones 4b-5a
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Holy mackerel, what a subject. To be honest, I’m a little scared of Paul, he’s a big guy and could definitely beat me up. And this is his virtual turf. He’s the Duke for crying out loud. But I’d like to offer a few things I thought of.

First of all, I am not for spraying non-natives with herbicides or spraying synthetic herbicides at all. Attempting to put a species back in the box after it’s out is a waste of time and money, and stems from either a fear of nature, an arrogant attitude about humans’ ability to impose our will on it, or both.
Also, I think it’s more useful, instead of setting dates for nativeness to talk in terms of plants currently playing roles in relatively stable AND healthy ecosystems vs. those whose entire effect is unknown. (instead of in terms of natives and non-natives)
I have 5 points to throw into the mix.

1) While living in Quebec City last year I read a book about the flora of old North American cities (I’m American, but French Canadian cities tend to be very, very old – Q-city was founded in the summer of 1608). The author described with gusto the fact that microclimates and crazy flora brought from around the world contributed to the emergence of not one but many unique (in the world) new ecosystems.
My issue is not with new ecosystems, but with highly unstable or transition ecosystems. I understand that there is no such thing as absolute stability in nature, species are constantly migrating. What should concern us, or at least give us pause, is the adaptation we’re imposing (whether we choose all natives, a blend, or 100% non-natives) on the rest of the trophic pyramid. As permaculture ninjas we should be considering the trophic cascade a change in autotroph species or ratios will cause. Plants currently adapted to play specific role(s) in a relatively stable and healthy ecosystem will likely already have a number of deep evolutionary relationships with other insect, plant, fungal, bacterial, and animal species. Plants that aren’t a part of that family simply will not have had the evolutionary time to find their place.
Given the time, evolutionarily speaking, they might get there, but in the meantime, what are we imposing on those species (across all kingdoms) currently neck deep in meaningful interactions? And are our permaculture food systems only superficially meeting the needs of a select few species in a very complex system? Are we falling prey to a different iteration of the same short-term thinking that got us into this mess?

2) The first principle of Australian permaculture is “observe and interact.” That applies to all zones in about the same way except maybe zone 5 – which as I understand ol’ Billy Mo, is a bit more “hands off.” How do we learn from relatively stable, healthy ecosystems with rich evolutionary relationships that inform our designs if we don’t conserve portions of them? We can go into areas and plant our guild species from all six continents, but younger ecosystems won’t have filled all the niches yet—like a rough draft versus a refined piece of writing. So yeah, dynamic, diverse contrived permaculture systems are great for productivity, but I think that there’s value in saving islands of more mature systems.

3) Islands have been mentioned in the discussion, and isolation of species geographically has produced some fantastic diversity (see Allopatric speciation). Separating species from their motherland, and placing them in a different context, should eventually produce new species. This is one positive I see for what people call “non-natives.”

4) The point has been made that land, in the US, at least, is very degraded. I would advocate for a contrived ecosystem of the most noxious, invasive, aggressive plants out there over a monocrop. Because I think that eventually nature would organize any motley crew of plants into a cohesive and beneficial system, and after a lag, the rest of the trophic pyramid would adjust as well.

5) I disagree with Paul’s argument (as I understand it) that non-natives are better suited to your area because they flourish there, or maybe that natives are less suited to the area than species from other regions. Paul could go deeper into that I’m sure and he only dropped one sentence to defend his point. To be fair, though, comparing the suitability of species to an area based on its relative aggressiveness is a bit like comparing the suitability of housecats to north American forest ecosystems based on them being more numerous and widespread than bobcats.

The thing we have to consider is population controls that limit species in the area where they have grown evolved for the longest. Cats are favored by humans, as some non-native plants have been. Cats are largely spared from predation, the elements, parasites, food shortages, and infections (by caring owners). Bobcats have to deal with all of those. “Non-native” plants typically thrive in climates that are more forgiving, or where their allelopathic mechanisms find little resistance, and they might benefit from decreased herbivore predation, parasites, and infections, whereas “natives” are neck deep in a system that has identified it’s leaves and wood and seeds as food and has learned how to eat it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Caleb Worner wrote:
5) I disagree with Paul’s argument (as I understand it) that non-natives are better suited to your area because they flourish there, or maybe that natives are less suited to the area than species from other regions. Paul could go deeper into that I’m sure and he only dropped one sentence to defend his point. To be fair, though, comparing the suitability of species to an area based on its relative aggressiveness is a bit like comparing the suitability of housecats to north American forest ecosystems based on them being more numerous and widespread than bobcats.


I, of course, can not speak for Paul. I agree with what he said in the way I took it to be said.

The argument that a native plant will grow better than an invasive plant, obviously just doesn't make sense. The plant would not be called invasive if it did not grow better than the native plant it was pushing out. This is not an argument that invasive plants are better because they grow better. It is a counter argument that someone who says natives grow better than invasive has not thought through what the words mean.... they should perhaps use a better argument.

That is what I would mean if I said it, and as such I agree with it. Sometimes we feel so strongly about a subject (at least I do) that every possible argument is used even when some of those arguments conflict with each other. I have been caught at this more than once... :)
 
pollinator
Posts: 1353
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
28
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I could not agree more than with this threat, all my thumbs up! And today I feel like shiva and more!

I live in a place with this kind of "romantic attitude" because there are so many endemics...
The problem is that few of them are edible... except for goats!
Aboriginal people lived on goat who lived on local plants.
Their only fruit was the fig.... because they brought it from Africa when they came to the Canary.

I spoke about the common foreigner romanticism with a local neighbour, who breed goats.
He showed me the surrounding plants, and told me with some irritation in the voice
"then, they should eat al this romantic herbs if they think they are the only ones that should be left growing here!"

Most people who want "only local" do not eat local. And they are separated from nature. cf the book "tending the wild"
So, I do introduce foreign plants, and let grow what wants to grow. And I am very pleased with my French dendelions!

Thanks Paul for this detailed summerised job.
 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
paul wheaton wrote:

Myth: Native plants are better suited to your area

If this were true, why do we have any concern over non-native plants threatening native plants?



What if the concern is non-native plants threatening native fauna?

I am interested in what you would say in reply to the notion that a number of non-native plants (this number is unknown to me, as is the when of these plants) are devoid of interaction with insects. This talk covers the topic. I do not know if they are plant bigots, just saw this recently.



Plenty of non-natives interact well with insects and microbiota, but it seems many do not. It would be good to investigate the extent of this scientifically and take advice carefully. I do not know if somewhere this is being done already.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Patrick Kniesler wrote:
paul wheaton wrote:

Myth: Native plants are better suited to your area

If this were true, why do we have any concern over non-native plants threatening native plants?



What if the concern is non-native plants threatening native fauna?

I am interested in what you would say in reply to the notion that a number of non-native plants (this number is unknown to me, as is the when of these plants) are devoid of interaction with insects. This talk covers the topic.


Great video! I think the wording of the original quote could be expanded on. There is a big difference in "better suited" or "more suitable for". The quote above uses "better suited" which means that one plant can do well, not that the plant is "more suitable" to the rest of the area. In other words, just because a plant grows well does not make it more suitable... in fact, the reason it grows well may be because there is nothing that can get around it's defences. This may also explain part of the reason someone might want to use immigrant plants, The leaves stay whole and don't get "buggy". What I do hear from the talk though, is that native and non-native plants can be used in the same space. The idea is that native plants that support a lot of life should be included and in enough numbers is plainly stated, but also that there are some natives that are even worse than immigrants. (maybe they are just old immigrants )

My main thought (or aha! moment) that I came away with from that talk, is that any time any plant, native or not, makes a natural monoculture, it may be time to consider if that plant should be removed or at least culled enough that other plants can grow too. Now, on damaged land there may be some "pioneer plants" that seem monoculturish, but need to be there to make the land usable to a more diverse landscape. This can be seen on rock faces in the mountains. There are plants that can grow on a plain rock surface with no soil. Because there is so little of anything there, it may be some time before the next plant can make a go of it.... but sooner or later there is a tree growing "out of a rock".

The other thing I learned, is that chewed leaves are not bad and whole untouched leaves are not "The holy grail".
 
master steward
Posts: 22746
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure why the video is in this thread. The guy is making a great case for diversity. I am 2/3 of the way through the video, and he seems to be railing against pure lawns - and I agree with that. He skips over any kind of food production and is focusing on yards. At the 2/3 point he makes it clear that he is totally cool with a mix of natives and non-natives in landscaping.

He shows "ugly-agnus" (autumn olive) stuff and my thought is: I can see a lot of other stuff growing right next to it. Plus, what an amazing place for a permie to set up shop and convert that monocrop into diversity. And since the autumn olive is doing so well there, it seems like the thing to do is harvest lots and lots of it, and then manage that space to be so much more, but still 10% autumn olive.

The video just showed had several factual errors that bugged me (pun!), but there was far more truth than error. I think that this guys would be tickled pink with permaculture systems.
 
Patrick Kniesler
Posts: 24
2
forest garden greening the desert toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe its just a difference of intent and managing land for productivity. The "one person managing 20,000 acres vs. 2000 people managing ten acres" as you said, Paul.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1353
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
28
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have a place in nature: tending it!
It can be native or non native, if a plant is over-crowding the land, then why cry and let it be?
 
Posts: 136
Location: Ozarks
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The Missouri Department of Conservation is pushing natives pretty hard, especially the pines. I hate pines and my soil is already very acidic so no thanks. I will be buying some of those natives I feel are productive to me. Hazelnut, paw paw, black locust, persimmon etc and I will be mixing them with whatever I feel accompanies them well. The State Nursery is selling the above named plants for cheeeap.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1353
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
28
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I will again mention the book "tending the wild", which I considere as a reference for this topic!

But this time I have decided to write down what Kat Anderson says, and she is very good at explaining it.
Quite a big job from the paper book....
Hope it will help.

This is a big book, these exerpts are from diferent chapters. Indians' ways included sowing and transplanting. Of course nothing came from far away, but let's understand the spirit of the text. The aim we have is the same: eat and live from nature without destroying it.

The part talking about the origin of romanticism is for me a key understanding about native plant enthusiasm.

The idea that would become the foundation of this book - that indigenous people's stewardship of the land carries important lessons for us in the modern world - germinated in my mind as I stood in a Mexican farmer's fields in summer 1983. The farmer was using the land quite intensively, yet much of the natural plant and animal diversity remained. All these farming techniques were starting to catch among organic farmers in the United States and to be taught in the new field of agroecology at American universities - and they all had roots in the farming methods of the indigenous people of this and other regions.

I became determined to find out and decided to focus my graduate studies in Wildland Resource Science at the university of California, Berkeley, on what I had become to call the "indigenous resource management" practised by the first people of California. I spent many months over a 7 years period, 1986-92 ...

The more elders I talked with, the more I appreciated the importance of what I was learning. I was excited to hear their descriptions of the old ways of relating to nature, especially the management techniques (e.g. burning, pruning, tilling, weeding, and selective harvesting) that they had learned from their parents, grand-parents and that they were still practising today.

Several important insights were revealed to me as I talked with elders and accompanied them on plant gathering walks. The first of these was that one gains respect for nature by using it judiciously. By using a plant or an animal, interacting with it where it leaves, and tying your well-being to its existance, you can be intimate with it and understand it. The elders challenged the notion I had grown up with, that one should respect nature by leaving it alone - by showing me that we learn respect through the demands put on us by the great responsability of using a plant or an animal.

Many elders I interviewed said thatplants do better when they gather them. At first it was a jarring idea - I had been taught that native plants were here long before humans and did best on their own without human interference - but it soon became clear to me that my native teachers were giving me another crucial gift of insight. Californian indians had established a middle ground between the extremes of over-exploiting nature and leaving it alone, seeing themselves as having the complementary roles of user, protector and steward of the natural world. I had been reading about how various animals' interactions with plant populations actually benefited those plants (grizzly, scrub jay...) and it seemed plausible that the many generations of humans in California's past had played a similar role. If it was true that plants did better with our help, it meant that there was a place for us in nature.

About halfway into the years of fieldwork, I began to ask native elders "Why are many plants and animals disappearing?" Their answers, which always pinned the blame on the absence of human interaction with a plant or an animal, began to add up to a third major insight: not only do plants benefit from human use, but some may actually depend on humans using them. Human tending of certain California native plants had been so repetitive and long-term that the plants might very well have become adapted to moderate human disturbance. The idea had a very practical corollary: the conservation of endangered species and the restauration of historic ecosystems might require the reintroduction of careful human stewardship rather than simple hand-off preservation. In other words, reestablishing the ecological association between people and nature might be appropriate in certain areas.

These parallels indicated to me that our human forebears everywhere did not just passively gather food and basketry materials but actively tended the plant and animal populations on which they relied. There was no clear-cut distinction between hunter-gatherers and the more "advanced" agricultural peoples of the ancient world.

Now that this book is being published, I hope that greater understanding of the stewardship legacy left us by California indians will foster a paradigm shift in our thinking about the state's past. In this way, human use can become integrated into conservation and restauration work. We desperately need to foster a new vision of human-nature relationships and the place of humans in the natural world.
They achieved an intimacy with nature unmatched by the modern-day wilderness guide, trained field botanist, or applied ecologist.
The first European explorers painted an image of the state as a wild eden providing plentiful nourishment to its native inhabitants without sweat or toil. But in actuality, the productive and diverse landscapes of California were in part the outcome of sophisticated and complex harvesting and management practices.
California indians protected and tended favored plant species and habitats, harvested plant and animal products at carefully worked out frequencies and intensities, and practiced an array of horticultural techniques.

Through coppicing, pruning, harrowing, sowing, weeding, burning, digging, thinning, and selective harvesting, they encouraged desired characteristics of individual plants, increased populations of useful plants, and altered the structures and compositions of plant communities. These harvest and management practices, on the whole, allowed for sustainable harvest of plants over centuries.
They so thoroughly tested nature's responses to human harvesting and tending that they discovered how to use nature in a way that provided them with a relatively secure existence while allowing for the maximum diversity of other species. This relationship represented a middleway, a calculated tempered use of nature.

The term hunter-gatherer connote a hand to mouth existance. It implies that California indian dug tubers, plucked berries, and foraged for greens in random fashion, never staying in any one place long enough to leave lasting human imprints. But they had a profound influence on many diverse landscapes.
Without an indian presence, the european explorers would have encontered a less spectacular land, and habitats that are disappearing today might not have existed in the first place.

Through 12.000 or more years of existence of what is now California, humans knit themselves to nature through their vast knowledge base and practical experience. In the process, they maintained, enhanced, and in part created a fertility that was eventually to be exploited by european and asian farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs, who imagined themselves to have built civilization out of an unpeopled wilderness. The concept of California as unspoiled, raw, uninhabited nature - as wilderness - erased the indigenous cultures and their histories from the land and dispossessed them of their enduring legacy of tremendous biological wealth. As the environmental historian William Cronon notes, "The removal of indians to create an 'uninhabited wilderness' - uninhabited as never before in the human history of the place - reminds us just how invented, just how constructed, the American wilderness really is."

John Muir, celebrated environmentalist and founder of the Sierra Club, was an early proponent of the view that the California landscape was a pristine wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. Staring in awe at the Central Valley, Muir was eying what were really the fertile seed, bulb, and greens gathering grounds of the Miwok and Yokuts indians, kept open and productive by centuries of carefully planned indigenous burning, harvesting, and seed scattering.
Of course there were some places that had little or no intervention from native peoples. The subalpine forests, the drier desert regions, the lower salt marsh areas, do not burn readily, nor do they support large numbers of economically useful plants.

Interestingly, contemporary indians often use the word wilderness as a negative label for land that has not been taken care of by humans for a long time. A common sentiment among California indians is that a hands-off approach to nature has promoted feral landscapes that are inhospitable to life. They believe that when humans are gone from an area long enough, they lose the practical knowledge about correct interaction, and the plants and animals retreat spiritually from the earth or hide from humans. When intimate interaction ceases, the continuity of knowledge, passed down through generations, is broken, and the land becomes "wilderness".

The rich knowledge of how nature works and how to judiciously harvest and steward its plants and animals without destroying them was hard-earned ; it was the product of keen observation, patience, experimentation, and long-term relationships with plants and animals.
That is not to say that all actions of California's indigenous people proved positive. It is reasonable to assume that the people migrating into what is now California more than 10.000 years ago undoubtedly experienced a learning curve, apprising the limits to resource use and then adjusting their harvesting and management from the lessons learned about how to steward nature for future generations.
In general, accounts of the impact of native people on the land have been skewed in two almost contradictory ways. In some cases, these impacts are simply assumed to be negative. The possibility of beneficial influences, such as enhancing the numbers and diversity of other species, is seldom considered.
Then there is the old view that the popultion levels of indians in California were so low, and their technologies so unadvanced that they had little or no impact on wild nature. Another version of this stance is the idea of the "conservation-minded indian" put forth by some environmentalists. The shallow image of the conservation-minded indian who hardly uses, let alone influences nature and feels guilty about breaking a branch is perhaps based on a romantic notion stemming from Euro-Americans longings to have those same tendencies rather than on serious research into indigenous lifeways. California Indians have never advocated leaving nature alone.

Learning about the ways in which the indigenous people of California appropriated plants and animals for cultural uses while allowing them to flourish can help us to change the ways in which we interact with nature today. Following the indigenous example, we can begin to see the possibility of becoming part of localized food webs once again, being full participants in nature, and restoring and reinhabitating damaged lands.

Since the 1850's, at least 20 animal species and 34 plant species native to the state have gone extinct. Although extinction is a natural process, modern humans have driven the rate of extinctions today to about 100 times the natural rate. Dwindling biodiversity is linked to contemporary land uses, which cause degradation, fragmentation, and outright loss of habitat.
A primary way that we have responded to the loss of biodiversity is by setting aside land and protecting it from virtually all human influences.
Much of what we consider wilderness today was in fact shaped by indian burning, harvesting, tilling, pruning, sowing, and tending. This fact suggests an alternative way of conserving the lands: manage them by applying the traditional ecological knowledge and traditional resource management practices of California's indigenous peoples.
Although setting aside areas of wilderness is still absolutely necessary given our population numbers, there are compelling reasons to protect, restore, and manage some "wild" lands by following a model other than the hands-off wilderness model.

The cultures of the indigenous people of California are rooted in a belief that nature has an inherent ability to renew itself. But native peoples also believe that renewal cannot happen in the absence of appropriate human behavior toward nature.
Finding ways to use and live in the natural world without destroying its renewal capacity is one of the major challenges facing modern-day Californians, just as it was for the people who migrated here more than 10.000 years ago.

Because no one today gathers wild plants or hunt animals for all of his or her personal needs, it is difficult for us - even those of us who are secure in the wilderness - to realize the depth of knowledge required to comfortably stay alive in aboriginal California. Indigenous plant and animal gathering was carried out under an intricate system that took into account life-forms, species, plant properties, environmental site criteria, cultural uses, and strategies of cultivation. When combined, the levels of ethnobiological knowledge became exceedingly complex. Only by following the daily routine of a Hupa fisherman, a yokuts saltgrass collector, a yahi hunter, or a kumeyaay weaver would we begin to fully appreciate the keen memory, knowledge of reproductive biology, attention to environmental cues, and mimicking of animal behavior that was practiced by harvesters to live directly from the land.
Timing of plant harvesting to reap the maximum benefits from plant growth with a minimum of animal or pathogen competition was critical. Memory, therefore, had to be long and accurate, and observation keen. Timing the harvesting of plants and animals to reap the maximum benefits added another dimension to the complexity of native people's knowledge.
The seeds of many types of plants had to be picked within a week of ripening or they would be lost to the gatherer.

In native California societies, gathering and hunting knowledge was not just a set of facts to be memorized and mecanically followed in the daily harvesting rounds but rather was tied to a comprehensive cultural framework of values, beliefs, and behaviors that clearly defined the place of humans in the natural world. To an extent that it is difficult for a non indian to appreciate, nature and culture were closely entwined and interlocking. Knowledge of plants and animals informed culture, and culture shaped the way in which this knowledge was employed.
Most tribes had legends that vividly told of the consequences that would befall humans if they took nature for granted or violated natural laws.
They were unified by a fundamental ethic: one must interact respectfully with nature and coexist with all life-forms. The spiritual dimension of this ethic is a cosmology that casts humans as part of the natural system, closely related to all life-forms. In this vision of the world, nature is not to be treated as a separate entity "out there" that you do not touch or interact with. Homo sapiens are full participants in nature, and they share mutual obligations and intricate interactions with many other forms of life.
Trusting that respect and understanding would come through relationship, native people believed that animals could become familiar with, even grow accustomed to, the ways of homo sapiens.

In "ecologies of the heart", the ethnobiologist Eugene Anderson writes "A properly socialised individual had a powerful sense that the wild world was feeding him, and he ought to be as grateful and as anxious to act decently as he would to any human who fed him out of sheer kindness."
Native people reconciled the killing of their plant and animal kin by following certain rules when hunting and gathering (e.g., do not waste or over-harvest) and believed that the necessary sacrifice of some creatures is made for the good of all creatures. "The killing and eating of other beings is understood by most tribal peoples as a part of a larger gift of life rather than a victory over nature" (Paul Shepard).
Recognizing the impact of killing other creatures for food, California indians were careful to manage habitats to benefit the plants and animals not taken.
Native people's movements were also keyed to seasonal cycles. At each elevation was a seasonal camp, used when the annual cycles of ripening and population movements yielded abundant resources there. Early anthropologists mistook these movements for a nomadic life, but in actuality indigenous people migrated seasonally within a home territory.
The cyclical departures and return of wildlife were so predictable that they could have extinghuished large numbers of animals. Yet for the most part they did not, having learned that yearly abundance could be ensured by working with nature instead of taking advantage of it.
According to various narratives, humans were given specific instructions through the spirit world to protect the earth's self-replenishing character.

Chapter 3 - The collision of worlds -

The explorers entering California from the 16th through the 19th century rarely saw it as it was, a land carefully tended by large population of people with remarkable and diverse cultures, but instead saw the landscapes and its inhabitants through lenses distorted by western ignorance, prejudice, and greed.
The colonizers variously saw California as a foreboding wilderness, a place to do God's work, a giant un tapped storehouse of wealth, and a place of raw, unspoiled beauty. Although these conceptions varied, they were consistent in two ways: they ignored the essential humanity of the natve inhabitants, and they failed to account for the changes in the landscape these people had wrought for millennia. When European explorers made their first contacts with indigenous peoples in the Americas, they saw them as wild, inferior beings, wandering aimlessly over the country, not subject to the order and routine of civilization. This was the only way Europeans could understand cultures vastly different from their own because their worldview so resolutely dualistic.

The conservation movement

In the early 1900s, a "widespread turning to nature" had begun to grow omong the urban middle class, as its members became aware that the natural resourses of the state, thought to be limitless during the gold rush, were in fact very limited and even seriously threatened.
For most part, the conservationists did not understand how California Indians, over centuries, had influenced the animals, plants and landscapes and maintained the land's fertility.
Galen Clark, guardian of the Yosemite grant for many years, saw the link between the valley's beauty and its stewardship by its longtime residents. His was a lone voice in pointing out that it was under the care of the Indians, and he argued that non-indians could learn much from the indigenous people.

Romanticizing nature and the noble savage.

The perception that California was a primeval wilderness free of human influence has its roots in this period of California history. By the 18th century, wilderness areas in Europe had come to be viewed as places for self-renewal, where one could escape the life of the cities for the tranquillity and purity of nature.
Muir and those with similar views responded to the destruction and explotation of California's natural resources with a preservationist ethic that valued nature above all else but which defined nature as that which was free of human influence. Thus while he championed the setting aside of parks as public land, Muir also contributed to the modern notion that the indigenous inhabitants of the state had no role in shaping its natural attributes.
Muir longed to experience the wilderness of raw nature; the utility of the biota did not interest him. Yet more than once he faced starvation when food supplies from civilization did not arrive on time to his shepard outpost in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Muir showed admiration for the native peoples' knowledge of ethnobotany, but he prefered the society of squirrels to that of indians and never seriously considered the possibilities for wilderness living offered by California Indian ways.

Muir's view of California nature was a necessary counterweight to the view that had prevailed before - that nature was there to be exploited - but it left us with a schizophrenic approach to the natural world: humans either conquer nature and destroy its integrity, or they visit it as an outsider, idealizing its beauty and largely leaving it alone. These seemingly contradictory attitude, to idealize nature or to commodify it, are really two sides of the same coin, what the restauration ecologist William Jordan terms the "coin of alienation". Both positions treat nature as an abstraction, separate from humans and not understood, not real.

The rapid decline of animal and plant life spurred the enactment of numerous government laws and quotas designed to enforce restraint. Legally discouraging humans from overharvesting specific areas or species and making certain lands off-limits to most human activities were necessary compromises.
Wilderness preservation, a concept perhaps unique to western culture, is necessary given our burgeonning population, but setting aside wilderness is only a reaction to the plundering of natural resources, and both spring from a mind-set of alienation from nature. Moreover, the wilderness concept tends to compartmentalize nature and culture, giving humans the illusion that activities done outside of protected areas will not affect what is within.

Perhaps indigenous people can offer us a way to really find our home in California by helping us to locate a middle ground between exploiting and degrading the environment on one hand and insulating it from all human influences on the other. By understanding the ways that native people established long-term relationships with the land and its creatures, we may be able to forge a new kind of relationship with nature, based on connection, that carries with it both obligations and privileges, what Californian Indians would call reciprocity.

Reestablishing relationships with the earth

Although passive preservation may have its place in conservation, the biggest challenge for the human species is to find ways to use nature without destroying it. This means moving "beyond preservation", as William Jordan ad other authors advocate, by creating a real working relationship with the landscape.
Native elders repeatedly remind non-indians that we will not learn to live compatibly with nature simply by locking up lands in large tracts of restored wilderness. With them, one learns that indigenous people achieve deeper intimacy with nature by using it.

Although natre and culture are most profoundly united through the harvesting of plants and the hunting of animals, use is a double-edged sword. Once humans harvest nature there is the possibility of overuse. Removing key elements from nature means the possibility of ecological degradation, but it can also lead to deeper understanding and awareness of nature's processes and limits. Removing elements from natural systems with thoughtfulness and respect, one finds oneself asking questions that address the complex interplay between resource production and the conservation of biological diversity.
Judiciously harvesting, crafting, and using products from nature continue to be the three cornerstones that keep Indian relationship with nature alive, rich and sustainable. In traditional cultures, there are connections between the plant growing in its environment, its creative transformation into useful items, and the use itself. Today we have taken these three connected practices and made them into the distinct realm of science, industry, and private life.

The postmodern world's disconnection from nature causes us to tend to think about human-nature interactions in terms of the two diametrically opposed extremes discussed earlier, leaving nature alone or destroying it. In between there is a continuum of resource-utilization systems involving a wide variety of techniques and varied ideas about nature and about human relationships with it.
 
Posts: 1285
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live on the great plains. Every single thing I plant is non-native. If I wanted to go native I'd have to stick to grass and sagebrush. No fun there. So I'm HUGELY non-native on my property.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1285
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
paul wheaton wrote:


one person managing 20,000 acres vs. 2000 people managing ten acres

I've heard that the majestic russian olive tree is no longer allowed to be sold in montana. There is concern that it is displacing native plants. My impression is that it is growing in places that are nearly devoid of any plant life and it basically creates an oasis so other plants (including natives) can get started.

I have talked to three plant experts who are certain that it is good to put russian olive on the noxious list, but I never did understand what they said was the downside - other than "it is not a native plant." I talked to six other plant experts and they seemed to also be confused.

But my thinking goes like this: It is a tree. If you don't like it, a chainsaw will fix your problem.

This makes me think that there are some people that are powerful advocates of native plants *AND* they own 20,000 acres *AND* they have paid some enormous amount of money to cut down the russian olives (because they are not native) and the russian olive trees come back. So, naturally, they want to make sure there are no russian olive trees growing within a hundred miles so that they might possibly be able to reduce their non-native-tree-cutting-budget.

After all, if you are one person with ten acres and you don't like russian olive trees, you can cut them down pretty quickly. You can use the wood for firewood, or to make a hugelkultur for other plants.

So if a person has ten acres, and they like russian olive trees, why is it that they are not allowed to buy a russian olive tree? It is an excellent permaculture tree. The only thing I can think of is this whole thing about owning 20,000 acres and advocating native plants only.


Russian Olive is illegal here in Wyoming too. Yes, it's a pest to range lands but the biggest argument I've heard against it is that it travels the waterways and is a big drinker. Water is a problem here so people detest it.

As for 1 person managing vast amounts of land, funny story: One of my husbands good friends family farms cattle on a huge amount of land here. One day a helicopter was out flying around when they spotted a HUGE AMOUNT OF WEED. lol They had no idea someone was farming weed on their land because there is no way for them to keep an eye on it all.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22746
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just got an email from Jack where we are talking about this and he told me about this:

You could append this quote, “I use 100% native plants in my designs, all of them are native to planet earth”. Bill Mollison
 
garden master
Posts: 2809
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
551
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

If I were able to award apples I'd give one to Paul for this thread!!! Even though he's probably got sufficient for his needs.

One time, after hearing about how tamarisk only takes from the ecosystem and doesn't give anything back -- And therefore it is evil and must be eradicated and replaced with willows -- I went to a spot where tamarisk and willows are growing in close proximity. I walked around with my notebook and started identifying species of plants, of invertebrate animals, of birds... What I found was that the tamarisk was providing dramatically more ecosystem services than the willows... Insects and birds were all over the tamarisk, and mostly ignored the willows. Many more species of plants grew among the tamarisk than among the willows. Overall the tamarisk grove supported 3X to 8X more species per category than the willow grove. And with both willows and tamarisk in the mix, the biodiversity was even better.

Even in the most rigidly-controlled pesticide-doused fields, I am not able to observe monocultures... Perhaps one plant predominates, but there are always weeds even in the most immaculately maintained lawns or fields. In non-maintained wildlands, I think that people see monoculutures when the don't exist in reality. A more careful look at even the most overgrown phragmite stand, or tamarisk thicket, will show lots and lots of other species.

I am not able to walk into the wildlands and determine based on observation which plants were endemic on some arbitrary date, and which plants have traveled in from some distance away. They all provide ecosystem services. They are all preyed on by some combination of microbes or animals either before or after death. They all mine minerals from the earth or from other plants.

At my place it's easy... Because every plant and every animal is not from this area... During the last ice age, my farm was underwater. Every land based organism growing at my place and in the surrounding wildlands is non-native.

40 years ago my county commissioners thought that they could threaten violence against people to stop the spread of a weed. It didn't work. It still grows in the same niche micro-climate that it was growing in 4 decades ago. All they did was get a lot of people upset, kill a lot of broadleaved wildflowers, and lead people to believe that the county commissioners were illegitimate.

My favorite definition of native is: "The plants that are currently growing in the surrounding wildlands".





 
Posts: 26
Location: Brooksville, Florida - Zone 9a
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am a native Floridian and became interested in native plants when I wanted to create a wildlife habitat years ago. I joined the native plant society to learn more and was brainwashed into becoming an annoying native plant enthusiast. I was not a native plant Nazi, but did steer people away from non-natives and touted the benefits of natives.

I love native plants because they are easy to grow, easy to maintain, beautiful, and provide for our native wildlife, but if I can grow Okinawan spinach, or Dioscorea alata, and put food on my table I am going to … and not feel guilty about it. I cannot survive on native plants as a food source. American Indians spent most of their time on food collection and processing … they lived communally and that was their way of life. I don’t have the time or energy to spend days processing coontie roots or acorns. My husband works and I have limited energy so it is not practical, or feasible, to try to survive on native plants, plus most of them don’t taste very good anyway.

When I was the president of the local native plant society chapter it was drilled into me to do all I could to stop people from growing anything but native plants. I was put in a position of being the plant police … I didn’t like being in that position. The propaganda is perpetuated by these non-profit organizations (native plant Society, AFNN, NABA, NWF, EPPC) because they are mostly run by government agency employees securing their jobs and their resources in the process.

If these organizations convince people, through their volunteers mostly, that non-natives are evil then they can also convince them to feel good about having their tax dollars going to eradicate non-natives, research natives, research invasives, and purchase land to protect the natives … without much fuss and with much enthusiasm.

Forestry procures property in order to sells its trees, Swiftmud procures property in order to sell its water, Fish & Wildlife procures its properties to sell permits to harvest the fish and wildlife. They procure these properties in the guise to protect us from ourselves. They don’t care if you take or harvest or destroy anything … as long as you buy a permit for it! They want the common folks to collect rain water in barrels and not water their plants so they can sell hundreds of thousands of gallons of water for a mud bogging event. It’s not about saving anything … it’s all about the money flow. After seeing that hypocrisy in motion first hand I decided to look out for myself and not be a mouth piece for those agencies. It got really old using my limited resources to protect theirs!

While I was the native plant chapter president I was also a Master Gardener at the local Extension Office. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences touts planting mostly non-natives and using (and abusing) poisons and nonrenewable resources and it was quite the juxtaposition for me. I soon became very disenchanted with both scenes and decided to do what was best for me.

If government provides for their needs then I am certainly going to provide for mine and not feel bad about it. It seems to be the ‘do as I say … not as I do’ mentality. If they want a plant out of the commerce flow then they should implement a law, remove the plants, and not try to use their volunteers to enforce something that is not enforceable and only causes division among gardeners.

My property is full of useless invasive plants that I have been fighting back for ten years. Cogan grass, air potato, tallow, water hyacinth, camphor, and skunk vine. They were here when I bought the place and they'll be here after I’m gone. I try to keep them from taking over so I can grow a few things that I want, but that's all I can do. I do eat the ones that I can. I no longer perpetuate the ‘natives only’ propaganda, but do plant natives all around my forest garden and still have an affinity towards them. I now focus more on what is useful for me and what will grow in the conditions that I have … and I say the same for people who come to me for advice.

I truly appreciate all the skills that I gained during my years volunteering for those different organizations, and agencies, because I have been able to implement those skills into my forest gardening.

native plant enthusiasts are only parroting what they are taught ... hopefully they will see through the hypocrisy sooner than later … most people learn from their mistakes … or run out of steam supporting organizations that just use them for free labor and give nothing back in return. native plants have their place … and so do the plants used in forest gardening and permaculture … ours is an ever changing world and those of us who are open to change are much better off in my opinion.

I just ordered Okinawan spinach, katuk, cranberry hibiscus, chaya, cassava, goji, and tree collards and am looking forward to adding more and more perennial foods crops to my property and enjoying them for years to come.

Happy gardening everyone!
 
Posts: 311
Location: Pittsburgh PA
12
chicken duck forest garden fungi trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My location is a wet humid mountain, with some of the highest rates of building, and in return disturbed soils. We have HORRIBLE problems with invasives, that have no room for argument if the invasives are a part of natural succession or not. Watching 40 miles of highway being consumed by invasives, and dropping old growth trees, in 5 years is not part of eco society. In a densely populated area, with a whole lot of water and vehicles, seed spreads fast. Scary fast. So once again, the answer is, it depends. But i dont think human destruction is nearly slow enough for succession to appropriately adapt. Assholes ignoring the regions natural needs, and continual destruction of soil, without remediation, is not natural succession, that is ignorance, and lack of care. At least around me, the only thing invasives do, is decrease biodiversity. Hence invasive. I feel that there is NO appropriate excuse to justify the invasive, life choking, indroduction, or embrace of our mistakes.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2809
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
551
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Here's a thought experiment... Lets suppose that 100 years ago a volcanic island arose from the sea... Since then, 3 species of moss, 4 species of lichen, one species of grass, and ten species of insects have colonized the island... What's the biodiversity of the island?

Looks like 18...

Now supposing that we introduce 100 species of forbes, 30 species of grass, 12 species of moss, 15 species of lichens, 150 species of insects, 50 species of bushes, 50 species of trees, 30 species of birds, 25 species of reptiles, and 20 species of mammals. What's the biodiversity of the island? 3+4+1+10+100+30+12+15+150+50+50+30+25+20= 500... Now let's assume that in the next 100 years all of species die that made it to the island without man's intervention, and half of the introduced species die... What's the biodiversity of the island after 100 years? 250... Plus perhaps another 18 species that introduced themselves to the island so around 268, which is much greater than the 18 species that we started out with.
 
gardener
Posts: 1807
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
198
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joseph I'd much rather live on your island with 268 species. But if one of those 18 that died was some sort of charismatic megafauna (I don't know, you didn't give me any mammals, maybe a really cute insect that's four feet long due to lack of competition?) then people will be screaming at us about the extinctions.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2809
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
551
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I'm always wondering about the "magical seed" in my plant breeding... What if the seed that I just dropped on the floor contains the perfect combination of genes that is the culmination of my life's work... Do I have the energy to bend down and pick it up? Or am I too lazy and console myself by saying that it's just one more average seed? What if vacuuming that seed up instead of planting it means that my life's work will never be accomplished?

One thing that I have learned from my plant breeding efforts, is that species are not as stable and precisely defined as scientists would have us believe. Once in a while I find inter-species crosses in my garden.


As another example: Out in the desert we have an endemic species of bird found nowhere else in the world... There is a forest of pines that is surrounded by desert. No squirrels happen to live in the forest, because they couldn't cross the desert to infest the trees. Therefore, instead of being the secondary predator of the pine seeds, the birds became the primary predator. So the shape of the pine cones changed to minimize predation by birds instead of by squirrels. The birds likewise changed to be better predators on the harder to eat pine seeds. The birds probably share more than 99.5% of their DNA with the general population of similar birds, and they are fully cross-compatible, but don't interbreed much because birds from elsewhere find the pine cones too hard to eat. Scientists are currently calling them separate species, but I don't think they are different enough to call them separate. I'm more of a lumper than a splitter.
 
Posts: 27
Location: Birmingham Alabama
 
Posts: 67
Location: Southeast Wisconsin, urban
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Guh.... This thread is soooo good. As an individual with crazy bad anxiety and panic, one of the things that kept me awake at night (seriously) was invasive species. After becoming familiar with permaculture, I was slowly introduced to the "pioneering" of plants and it started to ease my mind a bit. Such great minds on this forum! Keep the greatness coming.
 
Posts: 9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maybe there is a bit too much hyperbole involved with the terminology these days and where it is being applied; humans do love to classify everything around them right out of existence.

Back in the day with the three-C's, when we went out to repair an area damaged by the highest life form (often this meant replanting a compacted creek bank or estuary facing siltation due to heavy equipment during a bridge or highway construction project), we usually did so with those plants that were from the area we were attempting to rehabilitate.
For that reason it would be fair and necessary to say that we only planted native species.
The idea was to 'leave no trace'.

I haven't met anyone yet who can successfully argue that the GSOB has done anything except decimate large swaths of already compromised ecosystem.
In certain parts of California that have been or expect to be overrun by the now-infamous Goldspotted Oak Borer, I have heard that donations of any Oak variety are welcome, even though Valley Oaks and Black Oaks seem to be considered hardest hit.
All of the above mentioned varieties of Oak are highly valuable habitat, now threatened by a singular invasive non-native species...
Incidentally Coast Live, Black, and Valley Oaks are considered endemic to California.

Again, context.
Some people will warp anything to achieve a goal, no matter how apparently skewed.
Ask any organized religion.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2809
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
551
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
UC California Riverside alleges that, the Gold Spotted Oak Beetle has killed 80,000 oak trees in 4900 square kilometers, during the past 10 years. Sounds devastating when described in that manner. When we convert that into human scale numbers, that's 1 tree per 245 acres, or about 3 trees per square mile, or taking into account the duration of the infestation, 1 tree per 3 square miles per year. In the grand scheme of things that's such a small number of trees being affected that most people would never even notice... Wind storms blow down many more trees than that in my village during any thunder storm.

UC Riverside also says that the beetles are attacking 3 species of oak trees. However, there are more than 30 species of oak trees growing in San Diego County.

It's all about how things are phrased... 90% of the species of oaks in San Diego county are not affected, and of those species that are affected, only about 3 per square mile have died IN A DECADE!
 
Stephanie Ladd
Posts: 67
Location: Southeast Wisconsin, urban
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the big thing is trusting in nature. As permaculturists, we talk about the wisdom of nature and working with it all the time. So why not trust it? We are, after all, a species of this planet. As far as I know, we were not put here by some alien species. And I'm really really really tired of the "green" movement always making me feel like crap because I'm human. I let some garlic mustard go to seed in my front yard and I'm a horrible person because of it!!! I think if we had total faith in nature, we would trust that everything will be ok. Everything will shake out eventually. And we will lose lots of species in that process (maybe even the human species if we don't adapt), but new species will emerge and all will be well, eventually.
 
Stuart Pedasso
Posts: 9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We can safely heat this material in open smelters for copper ore extraction.

We can safely harvest 1,000 Sequoia Redwoods every year, and there would still be Redwood trees here the next year.

We can safely trample this creekbed because the county considers these plants weeds.

The damming of the Klamath River was done for the good of American society.

William A. Clark, John Cleveland Osgood, and James Buchanan Duke were merely pioneers ahead of their time in colonizing the Americas.

That timberland is the sole private property of William Randolph Hearst.

The Modoc Tribe was relocated for their own good.



You are 100% correct.
It really is about how things are phrased.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1394
Location: northern California
48
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Whenever I get into a debate about this issue that is starting to turn ugly, I suggest that we all take a good long look in a mirror before condemning some plant or bug or whatever.....
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2809
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
551
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In any case, it seems to me that there is nothing that can be done about the Gold Spotted Oak Beetle. It has moved from Arizona (or Mexico) to Southern California... I can't envision any way to determine if they were blown in on the wind, or if they came in on a truckload of firewood. I believe that no amount of poison will eradicate the beetles, and no amount of education or regulation will stop them from spreading. The oak trees that are susceptible to the beetles will die. Those that are not fully susceptible will produce offspring that are more resistant to the beetle. Balance will be re-established regardless of anything people do or don't do. In my world view, there is no point even trying to stop the beetle, or in educating people about it. That milk has already been spilt.

The people and governments of San Diego county could spend gobs of money that they don't have, and waste all sorts of human effort, but the way I look at the math, the natural resources available to the Gold Spotted Oak Beetle far exceed any capital that humans might attempt to spend in stopping it. And besides, the beetles there may outnumber people 100 to 1.





 
Stuart Pedasso
Posts: 9
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The only thing ugly about any debate is believing that one idea is the only true idea, there are too many facets to anything to permit such myopia.
Closed minds do not open doors.

I'm sure those pesky Oaks can just find another area to become endemic to, we've got enough varieties already. Phrasing.
Didn't a couple Canadians write a spiffy little ditty about just such a dilemma, sans infestation?

I still haven't met anyone who can successfully argue that the GSOB has done anything except decimate large swaths of already compromised ecosystem.
I regret that you have interpreted that as some sort of challenge; again, context.
There is no silk pajama to be won.

Studies do exist however that indicate how this Arizona native (as in: from Arizona) travelled as far and as fast as it did.
The one (study; not native) released by the USFS and CDFA two years ago comes to mind.
My fellow stupid non-native natives keep carrying the aforementioned non-native's in on their firewood.
Reports suggest over 800 non-native insect species were intercepted in this manner.
By the way, reports indicate that is up to four species of Oak, not three.

Permaculturalists also appear a seemingly interesting breed though.
You can anticipate what a chicken or goat might try to eat if it runs out of food, but not a beetle.
It could simply be a case of mind over matter: if you don't mind, it really doesn't matter.
Until it becomes your problem.

But enough about instinctual survival and inevitable adaptability in the absence of natural predators.
More instead about the native species topic, since that was after all at the heart of my cheerful diatribe.

There are so many examples of native vs. non-native and invasive vs. non-invasive interaction at any given time that I honestly must admit it seems like hubris at minimum to ignore their existence.
By the way, native does not mean a plant type restrictively. Thought maybe I should throw that out by now.

I can think of another truly invasive but possibly native occurrence that is affecting the entire world currently, that our particular invasive species was very slow at paying attention to.
Maybe that has something to do with the hyper-reactivity being displayed in these last ill-informed and ill-prepared generations.
We do tend to be a knee-jerk reaction sort of species. It is a bit of a kick really.
Mind over matter.

I think the fair and basic idea of the term native could at one time back in the good ol' days have been construed as 'before you got there'.
Apparently the good ol' days was sometime circa 1986.
It seemed presumable that if you did not carry it in, it was already there (this seemed especially trustworthy in the more rugged and unspoiled areas, not so much downtown, where that diaper on the curb should NOT be but definitely is native).
That was what we were trying to do in places like Santa Cruz, and Monterey, where an arguably non-native and invasive species...mankind...had done a lot of damage in a short time and threatened the wellbeing of an ecosystem that was already there and harming no one.
We weren't trying to make a statement or fight a cause. We were just trying to make it like it was before our species got there and effed it up.

The habitat was healthy and diverse before the dozers and graders showed up.
That was the native flora that was found on site when they arrived.
After they finished their invasive service building their non-native bridge or asphalt onramp, they left it mostly bare subsoil churned up through the remaining topsoil and some weeds beginning to show if we were lucky; but usually a lot of clay with six to twelve inch deep ruts, brackish water, and erosion.
That is how we found it, that is how it was before we got there.
Native?

Repairing the habitat meant using native plants, native rocks, native earth, native water, whatever you can use onsite to erase the hate we commit, because hate really is the only way you can define such behavior.
But we really weren't on a quest to be holistic or symbiotic.
Restoration projects funded by the state require use of native and available resources, but probably because they are cheap or free not because of some idealogical position.
Where else were we supposed to get the materials to do the job?
What is more native than what is already native?

Of course there were natives prior to the last natives.
I'm sure the neo-natives would have considered them...native.
Rather than focus on who was where first, perhaps consider instead what impact they had on their system.

So what was it like before you got there?
Kudzu and antifreeze? Guess that is your native species.
Hope your local native wildlife knows better than to drink that sweet tasting stuff.
And hopefully your favorite native trees can hold up under the weight of The Beanstalk, Jack.
Does that mean kudzu and antifreeze are evil or useless? Of course not.
In most cases they did not put themselves there.

What about when we take what may have been considered a native species and selectively breed it until it no longer resembles what it was.
Is it still considered a native, and safe to reintroduce?
If it is essentially a native species (or at least half of one) would that make the discussion of reintroduction a moot point?
This is more of a Sandpeople vs. Jawa's sort of consideration however, and I admit it clearly only applies to special circumstances.

I think people may use native in place of the term low impact, because for one thing a lot of people are simple and think in simple terms.
Somehow that idea seems to have become invasive (I know, ironic isn't it) and just like pork and eggs and coffee and red wine and butter, we can't practice moderation, it has to be all or nothing.
Essentially you might say we can't be trusted with ourselves.

We are generally a herd mammal, and tend to reflect herd mentality.
If you heard enough people say native, then you would probably start saying it too.
If you need proof of this social phenomena, spend a year as an outsider in any small town.

If you really want to give a pro-native species arguer a run for their money, ask them how they feel about rodents and roaches in their home.
A lot of self proclaimed really progressive and alternative people fail this one so don't feel bad if I made you flinch.

One could additionally argue, should they find themselves sufficiently motivated, that it was a non-native species called a Federal Government that allowed an invasive species called a Society to compromise an entire environment for a smooth place to pasture a non-native AND invasive species known as an automobile.
But that would most certainly be some acrobatic phrasing.
 
gardener
Posts: 3293
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
269
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For me the whole "native VRS non-native" thing is rather moot.
Earth mother likes diversity as many have mentioned.
Along that idea, I would not think going strictly either way would be a good thing, both are reminiscent of mono- culture, which I believe everyone here can agree is not a good thing.
Control of spread, whether invasive or native plant is usually required if you are looking for productivity that will continue for years.

Instead of folks wanting to tout either, perhaps it would be best to sit in the dirt for a while and listen to earth mother. It might be that new thoughts will be brought to the front of the mind.

Growing food, both for humans and animals should be thought of as regulated diversity with an emphasis on land being productive over the long run, both to nourish the human and to nourish the animals other than humans.
For those that wish to stick to "native" plants, the easy way to discover what our earth mother thinks is to let the land lay fallow.
For those that wish to bring forth "diversity" they will tend to control the plants so all will be productive.

In Mississippi, where there are great swaths of Kudzu now, the people are learning that it is good to eat, when enough humans start to eat it, it will most likely be controlled by the constant removal for food use.

All eco systems are in flux, they have been since the earth cooled and life sprang forth.
There have been several mass extinctions since that time which occurred before and after humans began walking the planet.
There will be more of these events and perhaps one of them will include the end of human existence, who can say?

We first people like to say this: We are all one people.
We also like to identify the plant people, the rock people, the water people, the air people, the land people.
Everything is alive, we consider this always, we also like to nurture all to the point of balance.
Balance is the key to long life, for everything. So this is the important thing, not which plant should grow where, but that they all are able to grow.
 
Posts: 987
Location: RRV of da Nort
57
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@B. Redhawk: "We first people like to say this: We are all one people.
We also like to identify the plant people, the rock people, the water people, the air people, the land people.
Everything is alive, we consider this always, we also like to nurture all to the point of balance.
Balance is the key to long life, for everything."

Thank you for this entry. The fact that indigenous people (perhaps globally?) tended to view what the West has labeled as both "animate" and "inanimate" as being all a part of a living existence is quite key I feel. If animal, plant, rock, water, air, etc. are considered not just "essential", but indeed kin or ancestor, it produces a much different approach to how one interacts with these entities. They become more a part of one's community versus one's commodity. Maybe it's not addressing the same question, but I like to the ponder the "what if" scenario in this regard: "What if clean air and water, petroleum oil, all food, and all living space were in unlimited supply?.....What would be one's own personal approach...one's relationship.... to these things if one knew that were the case?"

"The future of mankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up their responsibilities to all living things."
--Vine Deloria Jr.

 
Posts: 228
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A comment on Russian olive. In the short term it is a good thing. The problem is that it literally pushes other things out in the process. Cottonwood, birch, choke cherry and others that used to be common on river bottoms are pushed out by Russian olive over time because it grows so thick the other seeds don't get started. Water consumption, destruction of native vegetation, thorns and cost of control all play into it being a problem. Long established patches of russian olive will push out nearly every other tree over time. And they use more water. The provided examples when WY declared salt cedar(aka tamarisk) and russian olive on how much water was used. The best example came from salt cedar though. There was a river in TX or that area that was dry most of the year when historically it hadn't been. They removed the salt cedar and the next year had flow for most of the year. In 5 years they had begun to reestablish native trees and the flow was actually mildly increasing over time. The salt cedar was using so much water that it was drying the river up. They showed the same thing with russian olive just not to that extent. They use more water. And if you have ground you pasture in just a couple of years russian olives can take over if you don't keep them mowed down. In just 3 or 4 years I have seen a pasture taken over that a dozer was necessary to reclaim the field. It had mature wind breaks on all sides of russian olive. So it had a huge seed bank built up. Then we got the right spring weather and no tilling or swating of the pasture and it was off and running. It was about 10 or 12 feet high and so thick you couldn't hardly walk through most of the field in just a few years. What I would really like to see is a usable fruit like apples or cherries that grafts successfully on to russian olive rootstock. It does so good in this ground it would be an ideal root stock if it would work.


A town near me bans chinese elms because they simply grow to well there and a single mature tree can keep dozens of houses having to remove trees yearly or be taken over by the Chinese elm thicket.

I have tried to take advantage of it in other forms. When I learned eastern MT had a problem with russian mulberry I deliberately planted it because I hoped a weed tree from somewhere else might grow here. So far here I am 10 years in and still only have the 2 trees and they are not huge. The birds like the berries so well I don't think they ever get ripe so they are unlikely to spread.


 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22746
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I have a few points to add to the Russian olive... Thanks for that information, there were a few bits that I have not heard before.

First I wish to clarify that no plant simply takes water... the water goes somewhere... All trees act as a giant water pump and transpire the water out of their leaves. So I suspect that what you are saying is that if a Russian olive grows next to running water it will take a lot of that running water and put it up into the atmosphere.

I think that the value of Russian olive would be in a location that has very little water... I know that I would not plant a Russian olive next to running water... I would rather plant something that needs a lot more water. Russian olive is one of the few trees that can tolerate extremely dry conditions. So I would plant it and places that are extremely dry... Far away from running water.

It sounds like what is being suggested is that it is a bit of a miracle plant in a dry area, but can become a nuisance next to a creek. So rather than ban the plant maybe the thing to do is to suggest that the person planting it might be happier to keep it away from water.
 
Posts: 378
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
C. Letellier wrote:The catch with keeping them away from water is that there is virtually no tree that is more mobile. Under any place birds roost to eat withing about 1/2 a mile of a mature russian olive will sprout new trees.(trees, brush, fences and fence posts, power lines and so on) I have cottonwoods that are 100 yards from the nearest mature russian olive. In the late fall when the migrating birds are feeding on the olives the ground within about 50 feet of the base of each cottonwood is so covered in russian olives seeds that you can't hardly put a hand down without hitting 3 or 4 seeds. In a year that the moisture and temperature is right there will be 50 to 100 russian olive sprouts around the cottonwoods. So between seeding hundreds of pounds of seeds per year per tree, long seed viability and birds as a vector to move it great distances especially to water(other trees to roost in while birds eating) they are hard to control. Which is why they have been declared a noxious weed in WY. They were literally wiping out whole ecosystems. Mature trees taller than them survive but they don't get new trees started so the next generation won't happen because the olives choke them out. The first year seedlings are easy to pull but by midway thru the second year even a strong man will have trouble pulling them so it is very easy for them to get ahead. If they are growing in a hay field that is being cut yearly the seedling will mostly just keep regrowing as long as you don't kill the root. But then if you pasture for a couple of years without destroying seedlings suddenly you have a small forest. And cutting them down is mostly wasted effort because even a small bit of live root will regrow the tree. In this environment I don't know any tree that regrows faster. ...you know why they have been declared a weed. I am in one of the first drainages in WY that they tried to clean up. Mostly got it cleaned up in the initial battle but they are on the ragged edge of losing the regrowth battle.


For permies acceptable control the best bet is to graze goats around the mature trees to clear out the understory of thorns to make cutting the tree down less painful. Cut it down and then high intensity graze the area till you get them killed off.(probably 10 to 20 years of hard grazing not missing a single year.)

Another amazing one is how long the roots can still poke back up. Cut the tree down and treat the stump with the proper herbicide to prevent regrowth. 2 years later with no regrowth engage in mechanical tillage of the roots and some of those roots will still sprout new trees.


This reinforces the idea that it's good for humans to engage as part of the natural world, rather than employing a false dichotomy by regarding themselves as separate and distinct from it. As an example, much of what's regarded as "pristine wilderness," and therefore off limits to any human "interference" (as if we were by definition hostile aliens, although it's easy to see how such a reputation has arisen) are actually terribly degraded and badly functioning landscapes which could be rehabilitated, in many cases without too much effort and with simple techniques (as was done with the desert swales near Tuscon 80 years ago -- http://www.permies.com/t/18232/permaculture/Tucson-CCC-Swales-Pics ). These dysfunctional ecosystems could benefit from some "alien interference," but that would be illegal. Even in a permaculture zone 5, which is regarded mostly as self-regulating, bad conditions (which often are the result of past disruption) might wisely be corrected, enabling a higher-functioning, more productive and diverse community. sepp holzer's Krameterhof comes to mind, and shows how government policy encouraged the artificial creation of a spruce monoculture, to the detriment of the land and its inhabitants. By judiciously furnishing proper conditions, Sepp has created the prerequisites for his land to be transformed into a tightly integrated paradise and delivered convincing proof of what is possible, despite vigorous opposition from bureaucrats and even neighbors. Human insight is a valuable tool and can be used to good effect--we see where the lack of its application has brought us.

Maybe the time scale is just beyond what we can tolerate. What if Russian Olives covered the whole state of Wyoming, creating soils by continual accumulation of organic material and bringing more precipitation through massive transpiration, thereby causing forests to spring up where there were only badlands? That would be amazing, but not something for which the inhabitants would be expected to have patience. Still, there must be some solution to the Russian Olive proliferation and similar situations that doesn't involve criminalizing various plants, a concept which appears bizarre and authoritarian. There's no end to that slippery slope. Maybe Wyoming could just become the goat capital of the nation--the problem is the solution!

If the vast majority of the Earth's billions weren't densely packed into urban areas, the landscape would get the attention it needs. Kat Anderson, quoted above, makes a pretty good case for the beneficial effects natives exerted on the lands of California. Aboriginal people have made plenty of mistakes in tending the land, no doubt, but they've also vastly helped it by learning through experience to apply appropriate management and refrain from exploitation. There's even more knowledge now regarding what is helpful and what is baneful to an ecosystem, and a synthesis of ancient and proven techniques with modern technology could make a huge positive difference--and practices would continue to be refined as experience accumulated.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1471
Location: Denver, CO
31
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting discussion.

Russian olive; here in Denver it grows along the creeks, replacing the willows and cottonwoods.

But . . .

I heard from somebody that by damming all the creeks, we removed the flood cycle that the willows and cottonwoods needed. So what are we to do? If we pull down the dams, whole swaths of Denver would be destroyed every 50 years or so. ( A flood in the late 60s cut a vast swath through Denver; the river rose 10 feet in an hour after a cloudburst in the mountains. After that one of the biggest dams was build across the Platte.)

With the dams in place, something will replace the cottonwoods and willows. ( Or we could remove all trees, but then the water will overheat and diversity will go down. Also, the trails will be much less pleasant.

So maybe we should just except the Russian Olive, unless we want to take down the dams.

The earlier poster who pointed out that more hands and eyes are needed is also right. Russian Olives in a truly cultivated landscape could be very useful.
 
C. Letellier
Posts: 228
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I think we do need to interfere with russian olives if we want to maintain the natural ecosystems without massive change. That said I would really like to see the trees turned into fuel instead of just cutting them down and piling and a few years later burning the slash piles. The Shell Creek drainage that I am on had problems with russsian olive trees over about 25 miles of its length plus various tributary branches. In that they have removed roughly 1000 acres of trees.(still several hundred acres to go) The power companies say that wood for a power plant can't be hauled more than 50 miles and have that still be viable economically. But here in just 25 miles distance we have that many acres of russian olives. And that is only one drainage. Shell Creek discharges into the Bighorn river which is probably 3 to 5 times as many acres per mile of river. And there are hundreds of places like this in WY. A small scale gasifier gen set running off wood gas and generate power with it. If you worked the area over once every 50 years that would mean you would have 20 acres per year you could harvest in this drainage alone in a completely renewable fashion. Haul the ash back for no net nutrient loss. Run the wood fired system under low power part of the time and bring it up to full power when needed to make up for lacks in solar or wind. Other rivers would add fuel sources in range and the mountain would add more. Blow downs and beetle kill on the mountain would probably add another 50 to 100 acres per year in range. Site the gen set near a feed lot location and you could have methane generation also to add to the renewable.


As for the elimination of flooding by dams cutting down on native growth I do see it. In last decade all the drainages near me have flooded out into the flood plain at least once by nature so it still happens. And if we occasionally pushed reservoir discharge in good water years enough to flood them more times we can help. The other piece of this puzzle though will be people planting trees. Since this is not directly affordable is this something that could be done with prison farm labor? It is for societal benefit and would not be competing with private industry. Create food forest and maintain older natural balances in various areas along the rivers.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
Posts: 1471
Location: Denver, CO
31
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wouldn't uprooting or herbicide spraying that many trees create a perfect opportunity for another invasion? Also, how much energy would be used cutting and pulling them, and how much disruption would there be to other species in the area? I'd only see the point if it was certain that they would not come back.

What about planting natives under them that will over top them eventually? Cotton woods and Willows grow much taller then Russian Olives. Limited cutting near the new trees would keep disturbance openings to a minimum, but allow the cottonwoods to take over.
 
A feeble attempt to tell you about our stuff that makes us money
Mike Oehler's Low-Cost Underground House Workshop & Survival Shelter Seminar - 3 DVD+2 Books Deal
https://permies.com/wiki/48625/digital-market/digital-market/Mike-Oehler-Cost-Underground-House
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!