Invasives harmful to area’s diversity

To the editor:

The guest column last week, “Another way of looking at invasives,” suggested invasive plant species are beneficial.

I agree with the author that what we call “weeds” have many benefits to the natural world (milkweed for monarch butterflies being the most obvious), and I share her concern about human impacts on the natural world, but to characterize the few “weeds” that have earned a place on the invasive species list as beneficial overlooks the harm they do.

To say that purple loosestrife “controls erosion” overlooks that grasses do that as the first to sprout when soils are disturbed. That’s how nature works, and brilliantly so. Purple loosestrife takes over wetlands, out-competing a natural diversity that supports a diversity of wildlife. That’s what diversity is all about. Invasives by definition are a monoculture — the opposite of diverse.

Promoting kudzu that soon forms a monoculture that chokes out diversity is very questionable. True, invasives might grow well in tired, depleted soils, as the author states, but they soon spread into surrounding areas. By definition, invasives invade. There is a very thorough protocol before a plant is officially placed on a state’s invasive species list.

As for Japanese knotweed offering an herbalist cure for Lyme disease, we don’t need river corridors and roadways choked by knotweed to provide that alternative.

The article confuses “alien” and “invasive.” Most plants in our landscape are introduced (alien) but only a few expand and multiply to become invasive.

Nature has evolved to take care of depleted soils by an orderly progression of plant colonizers, but modern trade and transport has led to the introduction of a handful of species that burst into that natural, orderly process. In their native land they fit into the natural scheme of things, but introduced into a different system, without natural enemies (disease/predators), they spread with serious impact to the wild world of plants and animals — the wild world that the author appreciates so highly.

Invasive plants and animals are seen as one of the top three threats to a functioning natural world, the foundation of healthy soils and waterways and a whole lot more.

Francie Von Mertens


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