Re: NANFA-- Raiders of the Last Park (longish)

Bruce Stallsmith (
Mon, 13 Aug 2001 17:48:04 -0400

There are probably at least 700 sides to the story of native vs. nonnative
and what does it all mean. The only part of the article below that made me
laugh was the following excerpt of 2 paragraphs:

"Many "native" plants are almost extinct in the wild...but, how could this
be, if they are so well adapted. The answer is that many native plants are
very poorly adapted, and will grow only in very specialized natural
habitats. They may require an acid peat bog in case of some carnivorous
plants, or a specific location on the side of a mountain in a limestone
deposit for a small alpine.

Because some natives are so poorly adapted, government has had to step into
the picture to ensure that these poorly adapted plants are saved. Because of
the outcry of many environmental groups, the elimination of a species has
become a sin, equated with a child molester or rapist."

Uh, these plants are poorly adapted to grow just _anywhere_; but they _are_
very well adapted to very specific environments such as peat bogs. The same
is true of the various _Spartina_ species of salt marsh grasses. They're
poorly adapted to grow in your back yard, where they would be massively
outcompeted by various weeds. But in the salt marsh, they have physiological
adaptations to live in salt water where very few other plants can live.

This gets back to the whole point that what's needed is to preserve habitat
so you don't get in the stupid position of trying to preserve a few seeds,
or fish, or whatever.

I participated in something related to this today. My wife Ruth and I joined
about 30 other people in Fayetteville, TN, on the Elk River to move a large
pile of limestone slabs into the river. This is to restore habitat for an
endangered species, the Boulder Darter (_Etheostoma wapiti_). JR Shute and
Pat Rakes were there from the Conservation Fisheries operation, where they
had captive bred about 600 darters that are being released today and
tomorrow. The Boulder Darter isn't extinct in the wild, but it is up against
the wall because of human activities. Previous habitat improvements have
been proven to attract and support Boulder Darters according to JR, so there
is hope for this species at least. The operation itself was pretty amusing,
with federal FWS people, state Wildlife Resource Agency people and a
hodgepodge of "others" standing in human chains into the river to throw
large stones into the main channel(!!). (I got to wear the new NANFA t-shirt

Different strategies will work with different species, I'm sure. Many plants
_are_ "noxious weeds" in this country; I've got a beautiful Chinese
Ladderbrake Fern (_Pteris vittata_) that hitch-hiked with a pitcher plant to
my greenhouse but this fern is hugely invasive across this hemisphere (early
age of spore production, few grazers). Oh well...

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A

>Also there is a good article "Cutting Through the Jungle" about the
>contraversies of horticulture vs ecology.

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