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Author is unimpressed by permaculturalist views of 'invasive' plants

 
pollinator
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That's not what I'm concerned about. What I'm concerned about is deliberately introducing species that then jump the fence and become a problem elsewhere. If you can't be bothered to learn your native flora that's your affair (I'd regard it as a bit bizarre, but none of my business). My problem is planting a species that might become invasive and damage other ecosystems, potentially driving species to extinction.
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Every species of plant and animal on my farm, and on the surrounding 50,000 square kilometers is non-native. 15,000 years ago my farm looked approximately like the following photo.

Because of the past history of this area being a moonscape, all life is precious to me, and is welcomed to my farm and the surrounding wildlands.

 
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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A farmer is going to raise peas and wheat and cattle... And with the cattle comes pasture and hay.

A gardener is going to raise tomatoes, apples, carrots, cabbages, lettuce, raspberries... nothing too unusual. And pretty well known to not reestablish itself willy-nilly.

I think what is being suggested is that a permie is going to bring in a little bit of everything. All of the things that the farmer will bring in plus all of the things that the gardener will bring you in Plus a lot of other exciting things. And with all of that diversity there may be one plant that does exceptionally well on this property... So exceptionally well that it starts to appear all over the property and then all over the property next door... And spread for hundreds of miles in every direction...

Is this what is being suggested?
 
steward
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Joseph, the harshness of the environment you are farming precludes many species from "going rogue," I would think. Maybe a super fast growing annual that produces prodigious quantities of seed and can get by with just a bit of moisture. . .

Neil, I think the point permaculturalists like to make is that very few species will invade a healthy ecosystem, and sometimes the overwhelming presence of an invasive species is a symptom rather than the disease itself. That said, the point I was making earlier is that which plants are problematic is highly variable and incredibly specific to particular conditions, both climactic and geologic. Permaculturalists will sometimes use hardy pioneer species that traditional environmentalists eschew, but as long as the species is already present in the general area, having a few more in a managed situation is unlikely to be the problem that many worry it will be. Or, if the species can't make it without human help, like hardy kiwi in places with summer droughts, it's unlikely to become a problem.

I can see, however, that some species are better left out of some environments. I'd rather not have any perennial morning glory/bindweed on my property in the PNW. I'm glad I never got hardy kiwi to fruit in Wisconsin, since it's become such a problem on the East Coast, and I'm sure a bird would have spread seeds if I'd followed through with my plan to have that plant growing on my largish property there. The climate of Wisconsin and Maryland are not all that different, both get rain during the summer. I'd feel better if "Gaia's Garden" had a cautionary note about that species somewhere in it.
 
master pollinator
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Neil Layton wrote:

I think that if we are going to experiment with novel ecosystems we need to be very careful with them, and there may be places where they just shouldn't be.



This is one of my concerns when I read of permaculturists wanting to move to remote areas in the mountains or deserts, where there may be intact or nearly intact ecosystems. People think they want to be pioneers or maybe escape from societal collapse, but I worry about them damaging healthy ecosystems instead of choosing already degraded land, maybe with its own set of invasives already, and rehabilitating it. I'd like to see permaculturists discouraged from trying to be pioneers in healthy ecosystems.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Neil Layton wrote:

I think that if we are going to experiment with novel ecosystems we need to be very careful with them, and there may be places where they just shouldn't be.



This is one of my concerns when I read of permaculturists wanting to move to remote areas in the mountains or deserts, where there may be intact or nearly intact ecosystems. People think they want to be pioneers or maybe escape from societal collapse, but I worry about them damaging healthy ecosystems instead of choosing already degraded land, maybe with its own set of invasives already, and rehabilitating it. I'd like to see permaculturists discouraged from trying to be pioneers in healthy ecosystems.



That would certainly be one corollary of my argument, yes. I'm happy enough to try to rehabilitate something that is already a mess. I don't think we should be anywhere near more or less intact ecosystems, especially since many are under pressure already.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I love my harsh environment! I read posts like the one about mowing the lawn to herd snakes, and frogs towards safe zones, and I am flabbergasted. I have never saw a snake, frog, lizard, salamander, or toad on my farm. I read posts sometimes from people that do have them, and I get the heeby-jeebies for a few days afterwards. Getting startled by sticks in the lawn... I might go an entire growing season without seeing a mosquito in my garden.

I read about peppers growing to the size of small bushes... In my garden, peppers don't even get knee high in a growing season. It's a rare plant that even gets half that tall.

We still have non-historical species that thrive in the harshness: tumbleweeds are my favorite example. They are the icon of The West, and yet they came from Asia. Species such as tamarisk, and rye that originated in the dry continental areas of Asia tend to do very well here. Rye which originated around Turkey grows great in the wildlands around here. Corn from Oaxaca rarely even produces a seed in spite of careful nurturing. I'm a model citizen, so I don't import seeds from Asia, but if violence wasn't threatened against me for doing so, I would import every species from the dry parts of Asia that I could acquire: Even without knowing anything about them. Even without knowing what species they are. I daydream about traveling to foreign lands, and making gardens in shipping containers, and filling them with soil, plants, insects, animals, birds, micro-organisms, etc, and letting them get well colonized by the natives there, and then importing/exporting the containers all over everywhere to spread the joy. We could even be smart about it: exchanging containers between similar climates on different continents. The USDA is already allowing the import of something like 100 million tons of food per year into the usa basically without inspection. My proposal doesn't seem far removed from what is already happening.

The ecosystem around here is only about 160 years old. Prior to that, it was under the management of the prior inhabitants, who used routine fire as the management practice of choice. That change in management resulted in huge divergences in species distribution. Prior to that, the local ecosystem experienced another tremendous shake-down about 300 to 500 years ago when the population of the previous inhabitants precipitously declined. Prior to that, about 800 years ago there was a prolonged weather-weirdening that tremendously altered the ecosystem. Prior to that, the ecosystem experienced tremendous modifications with the disappearance of the mammoths, the end of the last ice age, the precipitous draining of Lake Bonneville, and the arrival of humans, say 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. If I were Lord Emperor of the continent, I would reintroduce wild elephants and camels to north America. The plants here are certainly adapted to predation by Elephantidae. The only reason camels still exist is that they escaped from North America and established a new home in Asia. I'd reintroduce wild populations of camels as well. And while i was at it, I'd grab up a wide range of Australian marsupials, and the plants they are adapted to, and get them established widely across North America. Preserve them ex-situ, so that if something happens in Australia, there would be plenty of alternative backup populations all over. While I was at it, I'd grab up as many other island flora and fauna as possible and get them established on the mainland. The islands are eventually eroding into the oceans, and taking the endemic species with them. How did the explosion of Krakatoa work out for the endemic flora and fauna? If we care about diversity, it seems to me like we aught to be getting as many island species as we can into as many new novel ecosystems as possible.

 
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I love my harsh environment! I read posts like the one about mowing the lawn to herd snakes, and frogs towards safe zones, and I am flabbergasted. I have never saw a snake, frog, lizard, salamander, or toad on my farm. I read posts sometimes from people that do have them, and I get the heeby-jeebies for a few days afterwards. Getting startled by sticks in the lawn...



You don't know what you're missing my friend I love being surrounded by all of these creatures. Two days ago I was filling my chicken waterer at my hose and a huge toad hopped onto my foot. It made my day. Nothing makes me feel closer to nature than interacting with the little wildlings. I do everything I can to promote them living with me.

I wish I were rich, and you and I would be importing camels and elephants as we speak.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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When I lived in Ohio, I was fishing in the early morning, when a bullfrog bellowed a few feet behind me. It's the most frightened that I have ever been in my life!!!
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:When I lived in Ohio, I was fishing in the early morning, when a bullfrog bellowed a few feet behind me. It's the most frightened that I have ever been in my life!!!



That mental picture had me laughing aloud. Thanks for that

I wouldn't know what to do if I couldn't go to sleep to the sounds of frogs, toads, crickets, birds,...
 
Neil Layton
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I've just posted a review of a book that speaks directly to this question: https://permies.com/t/55801/books/Earth-Planet-Fight-Life-Edward#465615
 
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I think that permaculture as I understand it. has a very strong ethic urging us to increase biodiversity. I take this to mean animals, plants, fungi, you get the picture. Many of the things I introduce are as near to native as I can get. And I have priorities which emphasize pollinator support. Any of y'all have other rules of thumb? Standard practices? So the tarweed (Madia sativa, and other species in the genus- some medicinal, all with edible seeds- awesome gomasio! The old common name in this area is "Indian Wheat" but that seems an odd name for an oilseed) I am growing in my grassed-over green driveway to"the back 4O" is from a number of places but no closer than 10 miles or so, except for one collection of a few seeds from some plants I found along the roadside last autumn, just two miles away. But interestingly, species and varieties have their own favored places in the homestead. (I have a half-acre within the urban growth boundary, surrounded by neighbors with smaller places. I have successfully increased the numbers of Pacific Garter Snakes- this brings in crows and raccoons, but also recently, a large family of skunks. Despite the predation, I have enough Garter snakes to see decreasing numbers of slugs (almost all non-natives in my lot) Unfortunately the snakes do not reduce the Brown Garden Snails at all it seems. I don't care for escargot myself, and I have not yet introduced chickens, so I take my snails offsite to fraternize with several friend's chickens. I do bring in some plants which are Not of North America, if I can find enough reasons to do it. For instance, I look at almost every umbellifer I see growing in my area. Cow Parsnip (Puschki) is generally regarded as weedy here, but it is native and the hymenopterans and dipterans love it. I'll keep it in check by harvesting the seed for medicine. I brought in Bunium bulbocastaneum (earth chestnut) because it has tubers, but it also seems very popular with those hymenopterans and dipterans. (again!) I'll be adding Lomatiums soon I hope; they are native but getting quite scarce; I may have to get some species from neighboring counties. They include food and medicine species. Again, bugs love 'em- the flowers. While the bio-imperialist bees are declining, I am seeing species of bee that I have not seen before, as well as ones I have seen frequently for years but have never identified. The plants I am sowing and managing probably have something to do with this. How do you tell a true restorationist from one who "thinks it's a good idea"? The hardcore plant poison oak! Few plants have so many ecological links.
What would I do if I could? I would reintroduce Pachyderms to North America. But that's another thread.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Rick Valley wrote:I think that permaculture as I understand it. has a very strong ethic urging us to increase biodiversity. I take this to mean animals, plants, fungi, you get the picture. Many of the things I introduce are as near to native as I can get. And I have priorities which emphasize pollinator support. Any of y'all have other rules of thumb? Standard practices?



I have similar practices... For example, I have one field in which I only grow squash. Every year, it only gets cucurbits planted in it, because there is a thriving population of ground nesting squash bees in that field, and if I rotated out of squash, then it would seriously disrupt their life-cycle. Both the squash, and the bees are not-historical in this area, but whatever. I allow limited numbers of milkweeds to grow in one of my fields and they raise some monarch butterflies every summer.

In another field, there is a rare species of a tiny bee with pollen sacks on it's legs that I observe a few times per summer on the sunflowers. I also see a rare green iridescent bee on the sunflowers. So I make sure to plant sunflowers in that field. If I could identify either species of bee, or observe their life-cycles more closely, I would change my management practices to more fully supply their needs. Regardless of whether or not they are historical in this area. That field also has a sizable population of leaf-cutter bees that adore the sunflower pollen. So that field always gets sunflowers planted in it. The sunflowers have become weeds, but I make sure to always leave some of them to flower and go to seed. The leaf-cutter bees originated in Europe. I hang bee nesting blocks for whatever species of bees, wasps, or parasites cares to use them. I leave bare ground for the ground nesting bees.

I have a population of Colorado Potato Beetles that live in my fields. My contract with the beetles is that they can freely reproduce and eat one of my weeds, Solanum physalifolium, but it's a death sentence to be discovered on a domestic solanum. I also kill the attractive plant, so as to not confuse the terms of the contract. I allow plenty of the weed to grow for them and don't harm any beetle that is minding it's own business. The contract works because the beetles are local year-round residents. It wouldn't work with migratory insects.

When I'm out and about and find interesting things, I bring them home to the farm: mushroom spores, lichens, cacti, rotting logs full of life, leaf litter from the forest, etc... If I find a wildflower that is thronged with pollinators, then it's fair game to be planted into the wildlands on the farm. I really don't care about the history of any of these species. If they are currently living in the mountain west, in conditions similar to my farm, then I might as well bring them home with me.

There are also things that I don't bother bringing home: ferns, water-loving plants, shade-loving plants, acid-loving plants, humidity-loving plants, tropical plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, etc Those are from different biomes than my farm or are unlikely to do well here.

small-bee-on-sunflower.jpg
[Thumbnail for small-bee-on-sunflower.jpg]
Mystery Bee on Sunflower
 
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*blunt mode on*

It seems odd to me to have this discussion as if we haven't entered the Anthropocene. We're heading for 9 billion Homo sapiens in 2050. We all eat things. Something must die in order for us to live. Most likely whole ecosystems and a horrendous amount of entire species. Collectively this is what we rather want than having no or less than two children. If there ever existed such a thing as "invasive" We are it.

All is made possible by extraction of various kind. It's no use discussing conservation without discussing an alternative for the green revolution. Anybody who criticizes permies for spreading "invasives" has to offer a better alternative for feeding the world regeneratively or stop man from being a virus on shoes. I'm all ears!

Our actions shape everything on this planet, weather we want to know about it or not. We are now forced to think about how, not if, we want to shape this planet. It's scary. We're responsible for what happens next. This paradoxically includes conservation up to the point of eco-fascism. But there is no such thing as a piece of "nature" that's supposed to be like this or that. There's only desired by us or not desired by us now.

How much of the "natural" produce you buy at the farmers market is actually natural? My guess would be 0%. We live in a highly man made world. We are even driving evolution. Aren't we long beyond the point where our species has globally shuffled the genetic cards and we're going for a new round?

I haven't made up my mind about this topic. It's very complex and I've only red part of Tao Orion's book. For now I err on the cautious side. The topic is a pain in the ass to be honest, but I do feel I need to make up my mind before I risk wreaking ecological havoc. Thanks Destiny Hagest and others for taking on this difficult yet important subject.
 
Rick Valley
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"This author is unimpressed by native plant enthusiast's views of native landscaping" about sums it up for me, speaking for myself, IF I pick and choose my nativists. I read one's description of what he was doing- very proud of the native landscape he had on his barrier island off the coast of W. Florida! While eating a standard American diet, thereby reinforcing the agricultural degradation of the world, he was feeling puffed-up with pride for growing native on an ephemeral sand pile doomed to become ocean sediment in our lifetime as Florida becomes the smallest state in the Union due to rising tides. Monoculture of the imagination. If anyone does not understand that permaculture is about localizing and limiting one's impact, well, in the words of a N. Floridian speaking through the voice of Cool Hand Luke's warden, "What we got here is a failure to communicate" which is as much the fault of permaculture authors as any readers. There IS a tendency of permaculture books to mention mainly world-known agricultural species- the sort that get lumped into "Bioimperialist" lists. But the early permaculture literature has plenty of references to "Bush Tucker" (excuse my 'Strine, er, "Australian English": in 'Marekin' or US English, it'd be "wild food" ) In this day and age if you're not increasing your species diversity to increase habitat plants for native arthropods (for example) you are putting the noose of pollinator and beneficial insect extinction around your own neck. This is being taught in conferences and workshops, mainstream. Get the books on Amazon. I do have the benefit of knowing Tao Orion, and she has done a fine job of getting to know the restoration world from the inside, and has listened to my rather caustic caricatures of some nativists, and she's done a good job I think, of pointing out that massive use of herbicides doesn't have successful restoration as a certain end result. Ecology is a new science- and "the book hasn't been written yet" that can really show what has results in all cases. Permie Michael Crowfoot paraphrased "not only are ecologies more complex than we think, they are more complex than we CAN THINK" and any restorationist or permaculturalist who doesn't agree should not be allowed in the sandbox to play with the rest of the kids.
 
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