Saturday, July 28, 2007

Invasive Species Beauty

I happened upon the following post at Here is my reply:

Invasive species evince passion because, beneath the seeming complexity of environmental considerations, certain prominent species hide behind traditional, received cultural dictates about beauty. The common garden weed is, at some level, an invasive species, and is removed without controversy, unless it happens to be an endangered species caught in the cross-fire of development. Loose strife, mimosa, and other visually stunning species are seductive as they fulfill our beauty in landscape expectations.

Out gardens are based on centuries of landscape design principles which are grounded in the need to control nature, and to keep nature at a distance. Within the confine of our pale reflection of the Garden of Eden, foreign exotic plants provide contrast and artistic relief in a highly controlled environments. When these plants escape uncontrolled into the local or regional eco-systems, replacing native species, and in some cases creating invasive mono cultures, or as I call them biological deserts, we are faced with major reductions in diversity of species.

Because diversity is not welcomed without what I call plant species literacy, we tend to like specimen plantings of restrained, but great contrast, whether as to form, texture or color, and let this surface beauty, so important to traditional landscape design, guide our understanding. We select plants for their form contrasted with carefully selected other plants to produce great gardens. However, in the totality of the greater eco-system this traditional surface beauty is secondary, and a new definition of diversity and ability to provide habitat in a self-sustaining system becomes a new paradigm pf beauty.

Thus we are faced with a new definition of beauty, which is not supported by centuries of tradition and accepted landscape syntax. We look at the eastern American Cherry and are horrified that it supports the eastern tent caterpillar rather than being amazed at the bounty that this species provides to birds and other animals. We take our love of form outside our controlled gardens and apply it to our reading of a stretch of natural area without seeing the destruction potential. Tradition trumps the new definition, and we wonder at the passion of those who can “read” a natural landscape.

We are faced with a wicked inconvenience, about which I have written much; the end goal defines the problem.

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