Yellow Blog, Up High in Banana Tree

I love the beautiful world at night.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Almost nothing in nature is natural anymore."

The above quote is from a fellow named Oyster. It's wonderful to encounter a person who has an obsession nearly identical to mine. Alas, the character is fictional, but it's fun to run into a kindred soul, even if he's a character from Chuck Palahniuk's novel, "Lullaby".

Oyster and I are thinking about invasive plants and animals all the time. My husband and wife can attest to this. I'm always grumbling about this plant and that plant....

For instance, while most people are thinking, "What pretty greenery!" I'm thinking, "Dammit, why the hell would anyone plant English Ivy as a groundcover! It's the most evil, choking bastard of a weed on the planet!" It has the audiacity to grow right outside this very apartment building, taunting me.

You see, English Ivy (Hedera helix, the lovely ivy famous for clamouring up expensive university buildings) is from central Asia, where the climate is dry and harsh. When you import this fierce, tenacious plant to the moist, temperate Pacific Northwest, it goes nuts. It's a green, fecund, monoculture nightmare. Ivy outcompetes everything on the ground, chokes shrubs, then climbs trees and chokes them, as well. Look at this article from last summer: A quote:

"Seattle's forests would become an ivy desert" in 20 years, if nothing was done about it, said Pieter Bohen, stewardship director with the Cascade Land Conservancy.

Ivy leaves are poisonous (several children are ivy-poisoned every year!) and useless as a forage for many native animals. The berries are eaten by some birds, who then distribute the seeds far and wide in their poop so ivy can conquer all.

So, everybody, don't plant ivy outside, okay? For me, please, don't do it!

Then there's blackberries, especially the wicked Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus procerus). When I first moved to this area and was ignorant of their menace, I thought, "How nice, free berries everywhere to eat! And they're so tasty! Paradise." Little did I know that, while their fruit is undeniably yummy, blackberries take over acres and acres of native forest and grassland and turn it into a thorny monoculture wasteland hell.

Oh, I could go on and on. There's also Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius), a pretty yellow nightmare. And its close relative Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a not-so-pretty dingy white nightmare with vicious spines. Oh, and while I'm complaining....don't plant English Holly (Ilex aquifolium), either. These plants were all brought to the New World as ornamentals, which makes me wanna jump up and down, screaming.

I love to go to parks in and around Seattle; they're beautiful. But I always notice the extent to which they have been used, and used hard. Every park has been logged at least once. Many parks are forested with old, old Red Alder (Alnus rubra), which is native, but the trees are so old they're about to fall down, and there is no evergreen understory to replace them (because of the frickin' ivy, in part!)

I have a vision that makes me happy to think about: my own little native plant utopia! When we get a house with a yard, I'll have only native plants growing, especially my favorites. Sword fern. Pacific madrone. Douglas fir. Western flowering dogwood. Red-flowering currant. Salal. A little native plant oasis that native birds could visit.

Oh, yeah, I also go ballistically insane about introduced birds. I'll just stop here and leave you with another quote from Oyster, who I love so very, very much. Oyster understands me:

What we think of as nature, Oyster says, everything's just more of us killing the world. Every dandelion's a ticking time bomb. Biological pollution. Pretty yellow devastation.

The way you can go to Paris or Beijing, Oyster says, and everywhere there's a McDonald's hamburger, this is the ecological equivalent of franchised life forms. Every place is the same place. Kudzu. Zebra mussels. Water hyacinths. Starlings. Burger Kings.

The local natives, anything unique gets squeezed out.

"The only biodiversity we're going to have left," he says, "is Coke versus Pepsi."


  • At 9:02 AM, Anonymous molly said…

    That was a great post!
    It's nice to "meet" you. :o)

  • At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Danielle said…

    I never, ever knew that about Ivy! And here I thought it was beautiful... good heavens, I'm glad someone educated me ;-)

  • At 11:44 PM, Anonymous chasmyn said…

    So true! As you have now seen, I can personal;ly attest to the plague that is the dandelion. All over our yard, 18" high and with no one to weedwhack and really pull them out by the root, they will continue to multiply and by the end of the summer our yard will no longer be grass but dandelion. Gah!

    As lovely as ivy looks, I've never been a fan, for exactly those reasons. And I didn't know about blackberries either! That one was news to me - no wonder we see it wild everywhere.

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