I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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the dark side of native plant enthusiasm  RSS feed

 
Posts: 228
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Stopping regrowth is the single biggest problem of the cleanup process. Mostly the goal is to leave the root structure in place to minimize soil disturbance. But yes it leaves a location for new problems to colonize. The single biggest mistake was not allowing enough time in the planning to kill regrowth. The original grants to work on it had them killing the trees in year 1 and planting new ones in year 2. I don't know anyone who has been successfully able to do that in that short a time period.
 
master steward
Posts: 22743
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Excellent information.

I wonder how long ago it was that the Russian olive was introduced by human beings.

I wonder how long ago the Russian olive would have shown up on its own with no help from human beings. And if there are no human beings around at all how would nature proceed... When the Douglas fir tree appeared and obliterated the oak savannas, the people that were here at the time work to burn it back... Not obliterate it... But - come up with ways so that they could have both environments in a simple way.

So rather than the word "invasive" maybe we should say "the Next Generation"?

If it turns out to be a less desirable plant next to a creek then it seems like a good place to have a gardener... Somebody who will care for a half acre or so in such a way to ensure a lot of biodiversity and minimizing the Russian olive. The Gardener could use the downed Russian olives for hugelkuktur and for heating his or her home. I wonder if the wood is good for building a home.

I have seen areas next to creeks that are overrun with cedar trees. Don't they also take over an area in such a way?

In desert areas with lots of wind where there is no concern about a waterway... It seems that the Russian olive does quite well and does not seem to be keen to take over. It seems that it does very well at nurturing other plans and helping to establish a bit of an oasis in a Cold Mountain Desert.

The Russian olive is part of nature. The Russian olive wood have come to the United States eventually... Without any human help it probably would have been here by now and doing the exact things that it is doing now. Where there are Russian olives that human beings would rather that they were not, it seems that the task of Shifting the dominant plant species is a task that is a little work for somebody that owns one or two acres. And the task is a little bit larger for somebody that owns 10 acres. I suppose that if a person owns 20000 Acres and they wish for the tree to go away then they might be able to afford to pay a whole bunch of people to remove those trees. If we are talking about the government and millions of Acres then I kind of think that the government should let the trees do what nature intended. It seems crazy that they would choose to remove a bunch of trees and make the taxpayers pay for it and the trees are just going to grow back. All in the name of protecting a museum from over 200 years ago on an epic scale. I think it's great to have a museum that takes up an acre but I don't understand the idea of building the museum that takes up millions of Acres.

So this part of nature... The Russian olive... Is being looked on as a villain... the suggestion is that nature is a villain. In reality this plant is a hero in cold deserts... So a powerfully fantastic component of a romantic relationship with nature in a cold desert.

 
C. Letellier
Posts: 228
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Some basic information.

One of the complaints by the wildlife experts that was pushing russian olive elimination is that while it benefits some species it is eliminating others. And though I can't speak on effects on animal species I can tell you from personal experience it pushes plants out reducing species. I talked to a friend from Nebraska that said it will even push the cedar trees out of river bottoms.

For firewood it burns good and hot, moderate amount of ash and isn't bad about creosote. The bark is extremely hard on chain saw chains making cutting a bit of a pain. Best guess is that it collects a lot of dirt in its layers. Splits decently if good wood and dry. Miserable stuff to harvest for firewood because nothing is even mildly straight and because of all the thorns. Best answer to help with harvest that I am aware of is goats followed by some cribbing horses. Goats wipe out the under story and the horses get rid of the rest up to more than head high. Normally the branch thicket around the base of the tree means cutting to even clear a place to work to fell the tree. Giant Mechanical shears or cutting blades help here so humans don't have to get close to cut them down. The thorns are rough to work around.

For construction wood the answer is unlikely. The trees tend to spiral crack with changing moisture levels and getting straight pieces even 4 to 6 feet long for wood working is difficult. The other problem is that if the trunk is over about 8 inches in diameter the odds are the heart wood will be rotten. Lots of years spent looking for cabinet size pieces taught me that. For every about 15 or 20 trees cut down with large trunk size I find one tree with good heart wood in the big part of the trunk. Now it might make artificial timber. The process that uses scrub wood and crushes it and adds glue to make an engineered wood might work with these.(I have wondered about this one for 25 years since I saw the original article on it.) It is a beautiful wood working wood especially quarter sawed. Really bad for fine detail work because places in the grain tend to be really fragile. For good durability avoid sharp square profiles along with fragile profiles and round all edges over.

As for when it was introduced in the US I can't speak for other areas but I know roughly when it came into this area. In post dust bowl years it was one of the wind break trees pushed by the government. It was cheap, survived well and was easy to plant. Normal location to plant was fence rows for wind break. So late 1930's or early 40's was when it first came to this area. I have talked to a few old farmers who remember when their families planted the original rows in this area. So in basically 80 years it has gone from nonexistent to the dominate tree in this area. In my 50 year lifetime I have watched the river bottoms change from mostly dark green trees with an occasional russian olive mixed in to a sea of the pale green russian olive and just a few dark green trees showing. And it is pushing up the mountains along the streams. Damage to habitat is one of the concerns as it moves higher on the mountains. It may also be hurting water quality.(The guy arguing this one didn't have real proof but was making a bit of sense.) He was talking about reduced grass growth along streams because the trees were choking it out. And that grass acts as a fine bio filter so lack of it was reducing water quality at certain times of the year. This last one I have heard from only a couple of people and there was not solid science to back it. But it should be in the discussion till proven or dis-proven.

Don't get me wrong I see numerous advantage to russian olives. Easy spreading in an area where trees are hard to get started. The bee keepers love them because of the long bloom time and huge pollen loads.(they do try to track frames from it though and leave those for the bees because it does not make great honey apparently.) Migrating birds love them for food in the fall. The fruit is eaten and the seeds spit out. Huge food source for some species. Other species are hurt by them. Wild turkey for example had other native foods they ate that the russian olive push out. And turkeys don't see long term benefit from the berries partly because where they are in the trees but mostly because migrating birds wipe it out not leaving some of the longer lasting food sources they originally used. So turkeys are more hurt than helped by them according to the biologists presenting at the meetings for removal. They provide good shelter for small wild life. And this just lists a few. But having grown up around them I also see the disadvantages and understand why the state is going after them. Water loss, loss of species etc. Having changed hundreds of russian olive flat tires colors it even more against. Multiple hard to heal wounds colors it more too. Dry thorns are mostly safe only making a hole but green thorns contain a toxin that produces an allergic reaction in most people increasing pain and slowing healing.

As for using them in hugelkulture that is on my to do list to try. Since I have only been aware of it a bit over a year, I didn't make it last year. Hopefully health will cooperate and I will get around to trying it this year.

Personally I hate the amount of money that has gone into the cleanup for even our small drainage. I also hate the waste of piling trees and burning them as slash piles. But I understand the reasons too. If we are going to spend government money on this I would like to see a harvesting for bio fuels program of some sort created to use the wood and instead of wiping the russian olive out in an area simply put so much pressure on them via harvesting for fuel that they don't spread. There are many areas where growing these for fuel might be the best use of that land. If the contract cost could be used to cover the initial startup cost of the business could it hang on afterward without those contracts? Surely a fuel they are paying roughly $200 to $250 an acre to harvest a way can be found to make it viable for power generation. In the short term use the fact that it has more value to cover the start up.


 
pollinator
Posts: 1471
Location: Denver, CO
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In short; yes, Russian Olive is a pain in some ways, and also a useful plant in some ways. By and large, I would have never imported the thing. Then again, there are native plants that are a huge pain too. I think we would do well to realize that we will NEVER get rid of Russian Olive. That being said, a private land owner can try to do it if they like.

If I had a stream full of Russian Olive, I would look at the following factors:

The stream drainage has probably been changed by dams, culverts, and roads

The surroundings have probably been modified by roads, paving, tillage, clearing, buildings, sewers, septic systems, and other man made changes. This has drastically changed the flow of water in the stream, creating a boom bust flow cycle.

The fauna and flora have been changed. Honeybees have replaced native bees, and are now themselves going extinct. The buffalo are gone, the beavers are gone. The earthworm is an invasive that has changed the soil composition and ecology. Different bird predominate now.

My neighbors land, and all the land within a hundred miles, contains lots of Russian Olive that will continue coming to my land.

The stream is carrying far more silt then it used to, and I can't stop my neighbors from increasing the problem.

There are different toxins and pollutants around then there used to be. Acid rain is dropping more nitrogen from the sky then natives are used to.

The wildfire regime is very different then it was.

The Climate is changing, fast or slow.

Given this setup, creating another disturbance to try and recreate a native habitat is folly.

On the other hand, Russian Olive thickets are a problem. I would cut them down in select patches, and plant other native and exotic trees in these clearings, slashing around them once a year to give them a head start. I would use the slash and felled olives in some way, possibly as brush dams in the creek to favor the native plants. The nitrogen from the Olives would help some trees, maybe hinder others. The organic matter will help some under story plants, hurt others. I would wear protective gear to minimize thorn danger. Every year I would establish more trees. Eventually, the low Russian olives would be overtopped and shaded out, maybe not by the Cottonwoods and willows, but by something else. Maybe the cottonwoods are simply not adapted anymore.

In the end, I would have a lush stream side forest complete with check dams, edible fruit, and here and there a coppiced Russian Olive stump for biomass, nitrogen, and bee forage. Every few years a sweep would be made to grub out unwanted saplings of all species, Russian Olives, Siberian elms, and maby even some natives if they were getting out of hand.

Meanwhile my neighbor would be breaking out the bulldozer and herbicides for the hundredth time and wasting my tax dollars.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
Posts: 1471
Location: Denver, CO
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To add;

If I cut all the Russian Olives right away, I would loose wind and shad protection to the stream, and possibly some bank erosion protection, thus doing more harm then good. Leaving the surrounding olives would speed the regeneration of my select trees, so long as I kept them at arm's length.
 
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Is this a problem of space? What space should be dedicated to wildlife and what space should be dedicated to gardens for our food and our enjoyment? I think that the problem is that native plants in a complete ecosystems need to be preserved in enough areas, and that those protected ecosystems should be of the highest quality, not degraded but as close to pristine as possible, then, there should be other areas where people plant their gardens to live off them. I think that controlling invasive is important, but that a permaculture garden is "allowed" to use non-native species. It has to be both.
 
Posts: 87
Location: Long Island, NY
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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The main issue that really hasn't been addressed in this thread has nothing at all to do with the plants and everything to do with insects, birds and animals.  While pollinators can and do enjoy the nectar of alien plants, almost no evolution has occurred in the area of host plants.  If a mature insect cannot find its host plants to deposit its eggs, the next generation is not born.  I know Anne has a big thread about the Monarch Butterfly and its plight, which is the pretty poster child for native plant habitat loss, but there are literally thousands of beneficial insects that can only host on a limited number of specialist plants.

A great book to read is called Bringing Nature Home, which relates to this ecosystem issue. Studies show that very little biomass of alien plants is consumed by native insects and so vast food deserts exist in many areas. If there are no beneficial herbivorous insects, kept in check by parasitic and predatory insects, then there are limited resources for native birds and small prey animals.  Without the host plants, the entire habitat is stressed.

As a student of biology, I understand and support this interconnectedness by planting numerous native plants in our garden and doing my best to eliminate the most invasive non-native species, but I also plant non-native food bearing plants and use non-natives, like comfrey, autumn olive and lovage for biomass in my compost.  Chop and drop solves the issue for me, and I keep the plants around to enrich the existence of all plants in the bio-web that I am stewarding.

As an experienced wild forager, it is obvious to me that humans could not exist on the native forage available without eating large quantities of wild-caught animal fat. Plants were not the main focus of the diet, but a supplement. While I am an omnivore, and could survive healthfully on what I have available in the woods and fields around here, I would still have to harvest huge quantities of oak acorns (which do not mast every year in our parts) and process them extensively to obtain the necessary fat, and certainly we have no big game in our area here on Long Island, NY that could support a family long term.  We could fish and clam, but with the NPK run off in our Sound, it would be like eating conventional produce that you didn't even wash!

Farming of corn, beans and squash the original three sisters supplemented the diet and down south wild rice was harvested as well, but most winter stores were pemmicam and wait till spring for the dandelions!

So, to me, as a hobby permaculturist, I give a nod to native plants and garden with them, but the hugel is full of potatoes, tomatoes and other non-native vegetables and the compost is full of non-native biomass. My 20 full grown oaks support over 400 native species of insects, so I guess I can be a little indulgent with my hostas and wineberry bushes! If anyone has a problem with how I do it, they can kiss my asters! (which are native, but you get it don't you?)
 
Posts: 85
Location: Limestone, TN
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I agree.  I have several "invasive" species, naturalized species, and native species.  I want to grow some endangered native species.  Yet, I refuse to eliminate any plant in order to do so.  If it's here on the property, it is serving a purpose.  It is improving the soil, attracting pollinators, providing medicine.  Everything belongs.  Great post.  Enjoyed reading the comments. 
 
pollinator
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As part of the American Tree Farm System I am supposed to eradicate a list of non-native species in my forest, but good gosh, I do not have the income to even start that task, much less complete it. Yet when I talked to my forester two years after writing my last forestry plan she was incensed I had no concern about doing so. She was peaceful compared to another forester that was down right belligerent about it. To me a remediation effort is about as effective as telling my four year old to pinkie-promise me she will be good every day until she is 18 years old. That plan...along with non-native species...is futile.

Like I asked them, where do you want me to start: the 10 acres of high bred hackmatack you guys gave me as an experimental tree plantation? The new Chinese blight resistant Chestnut trees? All the apple trees on my farm derived from an ancestor some 170 years ago that like grafting fruit trees? All my high bush blueberry plants? All those are non-native and that is BEFORE I started listing items on their list as evasive.

Myself, my grandfather taught me many years ago; "when you want to get rid of a grass in your field, figure out what makes it thrive, and change it". 99% of the time it is soil. Last year I had a pasture just teeming with milkweed which is lethal to sheep. I was able to eradicate it in 4 hours...by putting down potash. It was not that milkweed likes potash, it likes soil without it. Smooth bedstraw is the same way. When the PH level is down, it thrives. When the PH level is high, it struggles. Lime the soil and the problem goes away.

It is a bit harder to do in forest settings, but it beats herbicide.
 
master steward
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I'm so glad you wrote about milkweed.

I have several people pushing for me to grow it, they even gave me a flat full of seedlings.  Something to do with butterflies - which I already have tonnes of, so I don't know why I need more, but that's not important.  What is important is the variety of milkweed they give me isn't native to here.  I suspect it will be on the invasive list in a few years for crowding out the native milkweed.  What's more, these are the same people who lecture me on allowing black berries to grow on my land because they are so invasive - my blackberries are contained by goats on one side, humans on another, and a forest on the third. 

So here I am, about to give into pressure and start planting out this milkweed and commit space and water resources to it.  But thankfully, I just discovered they are lethal to sheep.  Anywhere I have space to plant these, the sheep will have access to at one time or another. 

No milkweed for me.


I pay attention to the invasive list when I import new plants.  There are legal charges that can happen if we knowingly plant an invasive (although the local nurseries still sell these plants).  But I don't mind the ones that are already here.  If they have a use on the farm, then I'll manage them.  If they don't have a use, I'll change the environment around them to encourage plants that do. 
 
Jane Southall
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Good you found out!  They are to help repopulate the monarchs.  The milkweed.  You will have no problem giving away the seed.  I have an area set aside for monarch habitat, for the kids especially.  Four of them have never seen a monarch
 
Posts: 986
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Travis Johnson wrote: "when you want to get rid of a grass in your field, figure out what makes it thrive, and change it". 99% of the time it is soil.


Travis and others, maybe you can help me on a "weed" problem that I found no other link for within Permies.com:  Common Mallow.  Yes, the benefits of this little introduced (into U.S.) edible are numerous.  But it is taking over much of the property, especially with wet, high clay-content (mid- to high-pH) soil that we have.  In a small disagreement with my wife, I feel part of the problem is the "disturbed soil" concept:  her pigs have the run of the property and I would say that the worst mallow problems are coincident with the worst animal traffic, although increased soil wetness is also associated with the plant.  What was once a fairly even mix of grass, other edibles along with mallow is fast becoming mallow monoculture.  Any recommendations for beating it back a bit would be appreciated.
 
master steward
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for me this one is a worry http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40899108
 
Jane Southall
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Not trying to minimize...always looking for the solution from the inside.  But the uses of knotweed are many, including eating.  I had a link copied but now on different device.  I have a very small patch near the house.  I am watching and learning. 
 
Posts: 153
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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Not quite on topic, but I'm much more concerned about invasive bugs than I am about non-native plants. I personally despise multi-flora roses, they are a horrible plant that are hard to get rid of and the needles puncture my tractor tires when I mow them. Back in the 50's/60's the ag agents recommended planting them because they made such great no maintenance animal fences. What a mess that turned out to be, thanks for the lousy advice. ...But at least I can deal with them. I cut them down in the Fall before their sap goes to ground for the Winter. Come Spring, no "roses". What I can't deal with is the imported bugs. Over the last hundred years we have lost all our Chestnut trees, almost all our Elm trees and now all the Ash trees are dying off. There has been a fundamental and permanent change in our woods. Darn non-native Chinese for shipping infected wood pallets into a West Coast port, and starting the whole ash tree death spiral. The gov't tried to stop the emerald ash borer by spraying the heck out of the woods everywhere around here, and banning the transport of any ash wood across county lines. But, of course that didn't work. So now the ash are all standing dead, which has greatly increased my wood supply for this winter, but greatly reduces my shade next summer. (...I'm sorta thinking of planting Douglas firs and Russian olives to replace them.) I'm a bit worried about what the next non-native bug will be. If something brought in from "somewhere" goes after the Maple trees that will really be worse than awful. 

 
Jane Southall
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I am concerned about the native trees, as well.  And now with possible or it may have all ready happened introduction of GMO trees.  And insects.  Just saw that a non native praying mantis was introduced for some type of pest control and is now devouring hummingbirds.  So, yes.  There needs to be balance.  Hence, the important purpose of individuals creating stable ecosystems. 
 
Posts: 209
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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dog duck hugelkultur
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For the love of conifers...And yes I am a white guy who has been a NPS ranger in the greatest coniferous forests on Earth, so I must be full of it..The fact that native Americans cleared relatively tiny patches of forest with fire to maintain prairies amongst a sea of conifers in the Pacific NW does not mean they "didn't like Douglas firs." They were integral to the Yurok fish dams and many other structures.

It was a clear advantage to have such edges and variations in habitat as this strategic use of fire created, but they did nothing catastrophic to the species.  Maybe this is because, at the same time, conifers were also understood by anyone who lives with them intimately and observantly to have unique advantages to people and other living things.

Evergreen conifers like Doug fir, Hemlock, redwood, cedar etc, slow and help to absorb and seep our NW winter rains in ways that deciduous plants cannot with their leaves gone. Conifers also grow as fast in the NW's moderate winter temperatures as they due in June, providing sugars to the soil ecosystem and supporting our prolific mushroom blooms.  Moreover, doug firs support more species of fungus symbiotically than any other North American plant (350+, 80+endemic to Doug fir root systems).  They have a dramatic positive effect on moderating river flows and temperatures, and are very important for salmon, which pretty much blow every other food source in the NW out of the water in terms of significance. Also, I think a conifer line on the north side of a food forest is ideal due to its weeping of fertility, and creating a heat reflector to the south and rainfall/runoff moderator down hill.
 
Jane Southall
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Jane Southall wrote:Not trying to minimize...always looking for the solution from the inside.  But the uses of knotweed are many, including eating.  I had a link copied but now on different device.  I have a very small patch near the house.  I am watching and learning. 
.

https://www.hawthornehillherbs.com/node/148

Just to follow through.  I thought about researching the Asian practices of growing and harvesting, for some clues toward a solution.
 
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This past Summer I skipped with bare legs through the meadow of knapweed flowers. Oh, *#!, my legs burned for hours afterwards. Ouch!
And I still like knapweed lol.
I think native hedgerows can be a nice touch on a property. I have seen a lot of birds and bees there. That's my two cents worth.
 
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