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Francis Mallet
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Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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I've read that some introduced plants can be really dangerous to native habitats​. I was really surprised to have ordered some through seed vendors. There was no mention of the possible invasive nature of these plants. They should at least warn us! Now I'm concerned about Cheerios and their 100 million seeds that they're sending out...

I also realized that there is some confusion in the terms used.  From what I understand, there are at least three types of "invasiveness".  Those plants that people don't like, those that blend in and don't bother anybody, and those that hurt the system.

Am I getting this right?
 
paul wheaton
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Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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The whole "invasive species" thing is such a quagmire. For instance, black locust is considered invasive by some states, while also appearing in some sources as being native to those states. The very concept of "native" is shaky, as plants distribution areas may ebb and flow over the course of time. For another example, what if we were able to reintroduce American Chestnut, free of blight? It's almost entirely gone from its historic native range. Considering how dominant it was before the blight - would reintroducing it be a constructive or a destructive thing? Would it be considered a native plant, in areas where it has been gone for 50 years but used to be a dominant native?  What about ash today, being eliminated by emerald ash borer? When the ash is gone from an area, is that no longer part of its native range?

What about plants that are extremely prolific and likely to be very successful in certain climates, but cannot survive in certain other climates? Can you rightly call them invasive in places where they cannot overwinter due to the cold temperatures? Ipomea Aquatica comes to mind - it's extremely limited in the US - you need a permit to grow it at all, according to my research, even in states where the winter freeze will kill it right off.

I've heard people warn adamantly against planting sunchokes - "they're invasive! They'll take over your yard!" but my personal experience with trying to grow them in New Jersey? I wish they would have done any of that, but in fact they barely got started the first year, almost none of them came back the second year - they failed in my situation.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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All life is welcome on my farm, regardless of where it was living last year, last decade, last millennium, or last epoch. If a particular plant, like goatheads, causes problems to me today, I'll chop it out regardless of it's history.
 
James Freyr
Posts: 165
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Hearing the word invasive makes me think of things that cause serious problems and wreak havoc on the native environment and species that were there first. Take Kudzu in the south for example, what a nightmare. Toads in Australia, dang! Horses aren't native to the americas, but they don't really trash anything so they don't seem invasive to me. Wild boar are really f'ing up certain regions of the country, and hunting season on them is open 365 days a year, no limit. I think Peter is right about it being a quagmire.
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I also wish the seed and seedling companies would at least mention if their plants are considered invasive.  I'm "doing my own research" to see if a particular plant is allowed by my state but it would be nice if I didn't have to do as much double checking.  My opinions on invasives vary widely depending on the situation.  I wouldn't plant kudzu in the south even if it perfectly met the need I was trying to fulfill.  But I might be convinced to plant black locust in my area. 

There are areas of my state that are now over-run with garlic mustard.  They were functioning ecosystems before the garlic mustard arrived.  But now the only herbaceous layer in the woods is garlic mustard.  200 years from now I'm sure that nature will balance it out.  But the functioning ecosystem and birds and bugs that were there and are now gone seems to be a serious downside.
 
R Ranson
master steward
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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The whole idea of invasive species is a bit weird to me.  It makes it sounds like it's the plant's fault.  There are very few examples where the plant is to blame, it's usually a human problem.

Take Kudzu.  An excellent food, fodder and fibre crop which can feed livestock and feed and cloth humans.  But we don't use it, so it gets out of hand and we blame the plant.  Don't like Kudzu, get a goat - no more kudzu.

Scotch broom is one of our local challenges.  This wasn't invasive until the local brewery ran out of hops.  Broom shoots are excellent for preserving beer and the Hawth Brothers planted it everywhere.  Now it grows anywhere where there is disturbed and exposed soil - it stops erosion and adds nitrogen to the soil.  Broom dies out when the forest starts to reclaim the location and shades it out.  This is purely a human caused and human continued problem - and can easily have a human-based solution by limiting our disturbance of the soil and to plant a diverse selection of plants in its place.  Also, we could make more beer.

Blackberries.  Again, not the fault of the plant.  They were brought here as an important medicinal and food crop and like broom they grow where the soil is disturbed and not replenished.  They are also an excellent basketry crop and carbon sink.  Their invasiveness comes from humans not following through when altering the landscape. 


The biggest argument with 'invasive species' is that they create monocultures.  Only, they don't.  Not if you look at it.  There are loads of life in an invasive species patch - unlike one sees in a monoculture agriculture setting where there aren't even bees.  And that's what General Mills is trying to accomplish, helping to create food for bees.  Even if it is a bit of greenwashing, I think it's a step in the right direction as it increases public awareness and helps bring diversity to the garden. 
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 854
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I think there is a lot of agenda behind that native- invasive topic. In Australia bushcare is well organised and well financed. What it does is occupying people which donate their time to rip out weeds that they don't have time to protest against new airports and the like. In Australia every council spends millions of dollars to eradicate the weeds with sprays of course. What happens? The soil is dead afterwards and the weeds grow back because the soil cannot support native plants anymore. In my opinion invasiveness is completely overrated. It might do some damage is some places but nature always regulates itself.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I think the whole native/ invasive thing has been blown out of proportion by the media and self serving scientist. If it will grow and it shouldn't be there, the earth mother will take care of it.
Humankind has a long history of doing things with out first thinking them through, then they find ways to make it seem like it isn't their fault that what they did backfired.

Hogs love kudzu, people can and should eat kudzu since it is high in nutrients our bodies need.

There are no weeds, there are plants growing where we don't want them to grow.

Redhawk
 
Francis Mallet
Posts: 3
Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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Thank you all for your replies. It's more complicated than I expected.

I shouldn't have used the word 'native'. What I meant is that my woodlot has
some diversity, and although things change all the time there is a certain
stability to it.  That's what I meant by 'native habitat'. 

I started this thread because I'm concerned about my land. This place is my
home. I don't care that what I see growing on it is native or not. I'd like
to add more life/diversity, but planting something that overruns everything
and spills everywhere would suck. On a grand scale maybe this is a good thing
but for me, personally, it would really, really suck!

I'm afraid of something like this:
Garlic Mustard forms dense monocultures that
reduce the biodiversity and aesthetic value of
natural areas. The effects of Garlic Mustard on
ecosystems are long-lasting and may permanently
alter forests, even after removal.

(source: http://www.invadingspecies.com/download/Guides/Best%20Management%20Practices%20in%20Ontario/OIPC_BMP_GarlicMustard_June172013_D4.pdf )

I don't want to see this happening at home (with Garlic Mustard or anything
else).

Now, on the reality of invasion...
That video about made-up nazi stuff is strange. Once upon a time I ate meat
that should not have been eaten. That night I was sure I was going to die. So
those bacteria that I introduced were not invasive? Joseph Lofthouse, is all
life welcome in your gut?    The word "invasive" might be overused but it is
not meaningless.

Invasion: the incoming or spread of something usually hurtful.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/invasion

Anyway, I guess that "invasive species" is pretty much meaningless without
lots of data about context. So in the end I'll just have to use my head and
be careful.

I've decided not to plant Catnip, Golden Thistle and Valerian. I need to
learn more about them first.
 
Mike Jay
Posts: 483
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I surely don't know the answer.  People, goats and hogs all love kudzu.  It's good for fiber and shade and a bunch of other purposes.  But since people introduced it and didn't manage it with their goats, hogs and stomachs, it is now blanketing the South East US.  I agree that all plants have a purpose and can fill niches in wonderful ways.  I'm not so sure that well meaning people with all the right intentions should just assume Mother Nature will take care of it.  Mother Nature is very resilient and able to handle myriad challenges but she works on a gradual adaptive timeframe.  I don't blame the kudzu for being kudzu. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2222
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Francis, I appreciate your clarification of intent, makes a good answer lots easier for me.

It is possible to plant items such as the garlic mustard you mention, the easiest way to keep something like this in your control would be to use a container set up.
We use 55 gallon food grade barrels, cut in half (top to bottom) so we get two "trays" per barrel, I then build a cradle to hold the two halves.
Using something similar should contain anything that you want to try to grow but not have opportunity to "get out of hand".

Redhawk
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2262
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I am consistent in my philosophy. I welcome many different types of microbes into my body regardless of when/where they came from. If some of them cause problems for me, then I weed them out.

I'm the kind of guy that would take my kids to a chicken-pox or measles party.
 
R Ranson
master steward
Posts: 4935
Location: Left Coast Canada
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I say again, invasiveness in a plant is dependent on so much more than the plant.  The plant is just doing what it does.  It's living according to its nature.  A very honest kind of existence. 

The solution to "invasive species" is observation and understanding.

Understanding - I mean REALLY understanding through direct observation and interaction on the land - what your specific parcel of land is like, how it's microclimates work, is the first step.  Kudzu is on our invasive species list, which is rediciously because it won't survive here.  But we can't legally buy or grow it here.  And yet, we have plants of a far more invasive nature being sold in local nurseries.  Very nasty stuff that will play havoc on hormones and causes abortions in humans and animals if a pregnant person breaths in a chemical from the broken stem.  I can't feed this to my goats.  This is what happens when politics dictates practice.  By giving a blanket statement that this plant is invasive, we create more problems.  Understanding the actual land in question is a far more useful solution.

Understanding the plants' nature.  It's no good teaching a dog to lay eggs.  A plant is honest, it will do what it does.  It doesn't hide its nature, it's all right there for us to see if we pay attention.  When one expects differently, that's where the problems begin.  The bacteria on that meat example above - The bad meat bacteria upset the gut, that's not the bacteria's fault.  It's 'invasive' in some situations, but put this same bacteria in other situations like seawater or the freezer and it won't thrive.  Cook it hot enough, it will die.  Put it in your gut, then, of course, it's going to thrive.  That's its nature (which totally sucks, I know, 10 days in intensive care thanks to mishandled chicken)

Observe these monocultures, because they aren't.
Monoculture is a very popular way to describe these habitats, but please, take some time to go to these invasive species monocultures and observe.  On our little island, we have vast areas of "invasive species".  These ones really are invasive in that they come in, they take over, they drown out or even change the soil chemistry to kill off native plants.  Broom, Douglas Fir, periwinkle, blackberries,.. all of these act as invasive plants here.  Only the Douglas Fir isn't human caused, but it is human encouraged.  These are all said to create monocultures.  And yet, beneath our douglas fir canopy, we have almost 2 thousand plant species growing (the local university did a survey of our woodlot - so these are official numbers) in a 2-acre space.  Only 5 of them are non-native.  Maybe 50 are on or near the endangered list for our area.  This didn't include mushrooms, wildlife, lichen, moss.... 2 minutes observing our blackberry patch, and you will see 2 birds on the endangered species list (well, two sets of nesting pairs), lizards, frogs, plants, pollinators, trees growing up through the brambles.  Periwinkle is another host to bird life and provides shelter to small plants while they become established.  And Broom, the most hated of all invasive species, which I remind you only grow where the soil has been disturbed by human activity, is a pioneer crop that prepares the soil for the forest, gathers dew into the soil, and shelters young seedlings from the weather.  It's a wonderful wildlife sanctuary plant.

Not one of these "monocultures" created by "invasive species" is an actual monoculture.  They use this word to scare us.  Without these small patches of 'invasive species' - which I did not bring to my property and I manage carefully - my farm would have far less biodiversity.  All but the Douglas Fir encourage pollinators.  They all have a use on our farm. 

If you are looking for an actual monoculture, look at where the word originated - agriculture.  I feel this is far more harmful than even Douglass Fir and I would much rather put energy into reducing those monocultures than digging and poisoning plants that are invasive due to poor human understanding and management.  How I fight against those monocultures is to create an example of a high yielding small farm that is filled with biodiversity of plants, insects, animals and other life.  I do this with as few inputs as possible.  I avoid true monocultures like the plague. 


The land is under your stewardship - so it's up to you to observe it and tend it the way you can.  If you know for certain that a specific plant will harm your land, and you know this through first-hand observation, not what the internet tells you, then definitely prevent it from moving in.  Quite often what we are told are "invasive plants" are not.  Those that are, can be controlled by understanding the nature of the plant and working with it, not against it.  The solution to "invasive species" is observation and understanding. 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I am blessed to live in a land with a multitude of micro-ecosystems all jumbled up together right next to each other. There are hillsides that face every direction. There are slopes of all angles. There are highlands,  lowlands,  steppes,  forests,  riparian zones, and flood plains. There are deserts, swamps, springs, irrigation lakes, ponds and ditches. There are soils that are loam, silt, clay, bedrock, sand, and salt.

Each of those micro-ecosystems supports a different plant and animal community. No plant thrives in more than a few of the myriads of micro-ecosystems around here. Those areas where one species predominates might only be 5 or 10 feet wide in the real world, but in a digital photo in the virtual world, the rest of the real world is cropped out to only show that tiny piece of the general landscape where one species happens to be thriving. Once I actually started looking at the world with my own eyes, I stopped worrying that some badass foreign plant was going to rain down devastation on my farm or community.  When I look at the world with my own eyes, I only see plants growing and providing ecosystem services to other plants, animals, and microbes. I can't tell if a plant community has been growing in this area for one year or a million.
 
R Ranson
master steward
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garlic mustard - a food and medicinal crop with other uses, which is declared invasive in Ontario.  I doubt this would be invasive in my province, is it in New Brunswick?  I don't think it's invasive in all of Ontario, just where the conditions are right. 

Would this be invasive if we ate it?  If we harvested it for medicine?  It looks delicious.  Does it have other uses?  Does it provide habitat for animals?  Food for pollinators?

Check out Beyond the War on Invasive Species.  It helps us re-think our approach to invasive species and their uses.  Your local library should have it and if they don't then they should and you can tell them I said so.
 
Liz Hoxie
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Location: Ellisforde, WA
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We have several "noxious weeds"  on this property. The knapweed is loved by goats at a certain point, and the koshia is a treat for the horses when it's young, the goats at all stages, and the chickens enjoy it all winter. The seeds are high in protein and by searching the botanical name I found out that the young plants are good for hay. It is deep rooted, so is the knapweed, so it pulls up minerals. I leave the bottom 2 branches for the wild birds and reseeding when I harvest. Any seed that falls from the plant on the way to the chicken house becomes fertilizer or another plant. I almost hate to help change anything because the koshia may stop growing.

I like growing "invasive" plants and harvesting no maintenance noxious "weeds".
 
David Livingston
steward
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The worst invasive I know is even trying to colonize other  planets.  I see one first thing every morning when I look in the mirror

David
 
John Duffy
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David Livingston wrote:The worst invasive I know is even trying to colonize other  planets.  I see one first thing every morning when I look in the mirror

David
I'll give you a big AMEN on that note!...How many "ills" have we inflicted on mankind in the interest of 'Good Intentions' and the almighty dollar?...Thank you, David. Excellent point!
 
Greg Martin
Posts: 53
Location: Maine, zone 5
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With climate change and acid rain what was native is becoming unfit in many places and new plant invasions (native or introduced) will become successful where the native plants were once the most fit and capable of repelling invasions.  This is well documented.  Trying to keep invasions from occurring when the ecosystem is changing is a fools errand.  Despite invasives like autumn olive and black locust being fully naturalized in my home state they just made them illegal to sell/plant.  It's insanity.  Even if people hadn't planted black locust it would have moved here by itself due to climate change as it's range isn't that far away. 

If a plant is already naturalized in your area I wouldn't feel the slightest guilt about planting it on your property to serve good purposes.  Just make sure you really want it.  If the plant isn't in your area and a native that is would serve the same purpose then go with the native.

It's quite well documented that non-native invasive plants sub divide niches and lead to significantly higher biodiversity...ultimately doubling plant diversity (demonstrated multiple times in island systems).  There are no good examples of an invasive plant making another plant extinct.  Plant extinctions are always due to other stresses.  Invasive animals, however, have been known to cause extinctions.  It's a very interesting field with much to teach us about plant behavior.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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I like the quote from my signature:  "Invasive plants are Earth's way of insisting we notice her medicines."

Some of my favorite plants are considered invasive by some and loved by others. An example might be the Mint family.
 
Liz Hoxie
Posts: 180
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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Since a plant isn't really invasive unless conditions are right, should we say that humans in general are "invasive"? Yes,there are some humans that are invasive, but should we condemn the whole human race for that? Some of us are trying to live right.
 
Francis Mallet
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Location: acadian peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada
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R Ranson wrote:Check out Beyond the War on Invasive Species.  It helps us re-think our approach to invasive species and their uses.  Your local library should have it and if they don't then they should and you can tell them I said so.


This is a great link, thanks! Seeing mention of Capra makes me
happy!

I've started Tao Orion's book on invasive species. It's funny that David
Holmgren sais "don't use the word invasive, it's bad." Then Orion states
that those who have it wrong about agriculture say "don't use those plants!
They're bad!" Holmgren is doing with words what the others do with plants.

I've read more about cybernetics and systems than about permaculture and
ecosystems. What I find with the systems thinking crowd is that lots of
disagreement comes from two sources. The first one is confusing words for
terms, the second one is using different abstraction​ levels to discuss the
same ideas.

Invasion is a not property, it's a relationship. I rarely see mention of the
invaded and this can be misleading.

Invasion is a point of view. Dandelions spread on my mother's lawn, she pushed
back. This has nothing to do with good or bad.

A monoculture is an intellectual simplification, a model. No model is perfect.

etc

Reading that garlic mustard is invasive and forms monocultures warns me that if
I plant it on my land (or if it spreads from outside) it *might* threaten my
100+ year old patch of Trout Lilies. Or that elusive Early Coralroot I've
seen only once. Or the lovely Lady's Slippers that greet me on the path to the
cottage. To me this is bad. On another level (lower or higher) this may be
insignificant.

So now my question has changed a bit:
Can a specie, introduced or not, mess up an ecosystem (in a similar way as
salmonella can injure a person) or is invasion only a symptom?

I hope that Orion's book will help me sort things out.
 
Greg Martin
Posts: 53
Location: Maine, zone 5
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I think you'll find Orion's book to be really helpful.  I tore through it and found it incredibly well written.  It's an important addition to this field and a glimpse of where I believe the field will be heading.  Might take this generation of biologists to die, but hopefully they are not so mentally fixed and rigid.
 
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