Thursday, March 23, 2006

the odd & exotic

Pagistaan/Kati noticed how different some of our flora and fauna is from that of northern Europe and Scandinavia, even though we are in similar latitudes.

There are many plants that were introduced from Europe and other places into North America and are now endemic. Some varieties of plants may have been native, but subspecies were introduced. This happened any number of ways including gardeners and farmers bringing seeds intentionally for growing on their new homesteads, seeds hitching a ride in the gut of the domesticated anitmals immigrants brought to the New World, seeds hitching rides in clothing, feed, etc.

A recent example is purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, a very attractive perennial which loves marshy areas. Introduced as an ornamental plant, many of the varieties have become a pest in this part of the world, replacing nearly all native vegetation and destroying wetland areas. An huge effort has been made in recent years to educate gardeners to its tendency to spread and escape and to eradicate it in critical waterways.

However, I'm of two minds regarding what people call weeds. I believe Mother Nature has a purpose for every single plant and organism. And I believe, plants and animals have been migrating around the world without our help for ages; we are trying to take all the credit for something that does happen naturally to some extent. Nothing is static in nature. Something is always becoming and something is always disappearing. Nature will balance itself.

The imbalance seems to be the most common result wherever humans act. Sometimes we deliberately introduce things for our own purposes, whatever they may be. Sometimes we deliberately destroy things, for similar purposes. Most often, we pillage and plunder and destroy, without regard to what we end result will be, most often putting profit before all other considerations. For example, the wild turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo, recently reintroduced and apparently thriving, are causing some farmers around here to be concerned that they may be "damaging crops." I see the turkeys foraging among the stalks of last summer's corn and wonder if they aren't perhaps doing the farmers a favor, cleaning up weed seeds and waste corn that might molder and harbour diseases that could damage next years corn crop, for example.

Anyway, I think modern agriculture is doing more damage to the environment than we can easily wrap our minds around. Monoculture invites pests. The heavy equipment required to farm these days, the chemical fertilizers, and pesticides, and then the runoff into the groundwater, or even directly into streams and rivers, does more to damage fragile ecosystems than the odd imported exotic ever did. Most exotics have to be molly-coddled and protected to survive a harsh change in environment and promptly die if neglected.

And yet, like Don at Iowa Garden, I've spent hours on my hands and knees also, pulling up garlic mustard aka stinkweed, Thlapsi arvense. I console myself with the thought that doing penance on my hands and knees is better than blanket-treating the garden with roundup, etc. I can hardly bear to thin extra seedlings, never mind risk losing beautiful, desirable, well-established plants to roundup or the like. Besides, I think the most marvelous thoughts when I'm weeding. Time flies by. The only down-side to weeding for me is that it's so hard to straighten up and stand/walk afterwards!

Having trouble uploading some pictures of plants that are the early-showers around here. Ah well, I'll try again later.


Anonymous Barb said...

You are so knowledgable about plants I can learn alot just reading your blogs. I agree totally re: pesticides and modern methods of farming. I also believe that Humans are destroying our world and believe that we can learn alot from our Native Indians to only take what we can use and replace with something else what we take away.
On another note I have seen signs of spring. I saw a flock of snow geese flying North today. I can hardly wait for nice "warm" weather.

3:38 p.m.  
Anonymous Pearl said...

Yes, good point about the presticides. Until you spoke in the post, I hadn't cued into the irony of books on weeds, labeling native vs. alien with instructions on how to kill them. Which is more of a threat - imports or the reaction.

1:49 p.m.  
Blogger Jude said...

I agree with you re the hand weeding. Such a satisfying and almost meditational activity. And all that bending and tugging has to be good exercise. My husband is a Roundup enthusiast, so that motivates me to try to get to the weeds before he does.

7:08 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

H. B. Paksoy, D. Phil.

Published in Journal of American Studies of Turkey 6 (1997): 89

Most Americans tend to think that the Turkish Republic is named after a bird. As one result, quite a few Turks in the US, at one time or other, had to answer the question "What do you Turks eat during Thanksgiving?" This query is especially heard during November of each year, as Americans prepare to observe the quintessentially American holiday.

The homeland of the fowl known as Meleagris gallopavo or americana sybestris auis, is the North American continent. The 1494 Tordesillas treaty, forged by the Pope in Rome, granted the monopoly of commerce originating from the newly discovered continent to the Portuguese (as opposed to the Spanish). The Portuguese brought this fowl to their Goa colony in India. Circa 1615, Cihangir (a direct descendent of the founder of the Mughal empire in India, Babur [1483-1530] himself a grandson of Timur [d. 1405] wrote his Tuzuk-u Jahangiri (Institutes of Cihangir). In his book, Cihangir also described this fowl in detail replete with a color drawing. Since Meleagris gallopavo resembled the Meleagris Numida commonly found in Africa (especially in Guinea), and already known in India, the former became known in British India as the "Guinea Fowl" (see O. Caroe, "Why Turkey." Asian Affairs. October 1970). Meleagris gallopavo was then introduced to Egypt, a province of the Ottoman empire and entered the Turkish language as "hindi" (from India). When traders took a breeding stock from Ottoman ("Turkish") Egypt to Spain and the British Isles, the bird was designated "Turkey."

As a result, the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620 were familiar with "Turkey" when they encountered it in their new home. After the 1776 Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin suggested that "turkey," native of the land be designated as the symbol of the young American republic. Instead, Haliaeetus Leucocephalus (Bald Eagle) was given this honor.


3:23 a.m.  

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