I’ve muttered a bit before about weeds and how they might not be the baddies we’ve condemned them to be – and can also be quite beautiful.
For one, I’m certainly not the first one to show a little sympathy to the poor weed. Really, it’s a matter of nomenclature.
|Beautiful invasive “weed” – Lantana Camara, spotted in Wakayama prefecture, Japan|
Because really, there’s no difference between a so called “plant” and a “weed”. Weeds are just something we humans have decided are plants in the wrong place and are not advantageous for our purposes – eg invading an otherwise productive crop area, messing up a paddock we decided to graze sheep or cows in graze (also exotic, by the way), etc etc.
One book I’ve started reading is “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” by Tao Orion. She’s all for taking a natural approach to controlling weeds and restoring habitats and one thing she says stands in the way of that is the way we talk about weeds using unscientific and emotional words like “invasive” and “noxious”.
Tao explains how some ecologists will make the case that introduced species are a threat because it can’t be predicted exactly what long term effects they might have on their adopted habitat or neighbouring species. And yet, there are actions taken to eradicate certain invasive species using herbicides that have, when you look into it, highly questionable ingredients and effects which no doubt pose risks in the future that cannot be fully predicted.
the idea of “invasive species” is peculiar since all plants and animals are native to our singular and unique planet.
Tao Orion, “Beyond the War on Invasive Species”pg 10
|Blackberry – Invasive (and delicious…) image from Eurobodalla Shire Council|
“a proactive attempt to strategically manage priority weeds that pose future threats to primary industries, land management, human or animal welfare, biodiversity and conservation values. It is an effective tool that…assists States/Territories to prioritise their weed management strategies for the benefit of Australians”
|More info HERE|
Kolbert’s book documents, amongst other things, some of the species that are becoming extinct around the world, at remarkable rates and the efforts by scientists to study them. She makes an interesting point about the mixing of species across continents in the modern era. To me it seems unavoidable that plants will mix and collide and naturalise.
“From the standpoint of the world’s biota, global travel represents a radically new phenomenon and, at the same time, a replay of the very old. The drifting apart of the continents that Wegener deduced from the fossil record is now being reversed – another way in which humans are running geologic history backwards and at high speed. Think of it as a souped-up version of plate tectonics minus the plates. By transporting Asian species to North America, and North American species to Australia, and Australian species to Africa, and European species to Antarctica, we are, in effect, reassembling the world into one enormous superccontinent – what biologists sometimes refer to as the New Pangaea.”
(pg 208 The Sixth Extinction, An Unnatural History)
Some examples of plants “jumping continents”. It’s all give and take though…
|Prickly Pears – weed gift from the Americas to Australia|
|Sweet Hakea a weed gifted from Western Australia to South Africa|
|Tasmanian Blue Gum – hey California, you’re welcome!|
|Camphor Laurel – Thanks for that China & Japan! now a weed in NSW and QLD|
ANYway. I’m still reading these books (well, let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot of reading happening at the moment) and these are just tid-bits that have tickled my interest.
It’s all been part of thinking about a new series of work I’m making, “The Beautiful Weeds of Canberra”
Here are a few progress shots. The finished works will be in show in Sydney next month. More to come on that next time!