Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Weeds - In Their Defense

I've been reading a great book by Richard Mabey called Weeds.

 

Its a subject that I spend a lot of time thinking about, and if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I have strong thoughts about the proliferation of alien invasive plants.
We have a serious problem here in South Africa, with exotic, alien plants that have adapted to our conditions and are thriving and often out-competing our indigenous plants.

The feelings of peace and joy that most people derive from looking out over a seemingly natural forest valley, for me, can be a truly depressing feeling. At first glance, it may look like a serene, beautiful forest, but under the surface, there is a serious battle going on for space, food, and water...with lives being lost on a daily basis.

Montanoa - A pretty alien that frequents forest edges
That all sounds overly dramatic, and maybe it is...just a touch, but the reality is that even with our internationally renowned programmes like Working For Water, the reality is that these aliens are taking over.

If you consider that nearly 10% of the surface of our country is covered by alien plants, and every season, each one of these plants are producing hundreds of thousands of seeds, you begin to realise the magnitude of the problem facing our country and our natural vegetation. And all this is aside from their obvious threat to our own existence with the potential looming water shortages brought on in large part by these decidedly thirsty denizens.

Having said all of that, its been a refreshing read going through his book and looking at these 'evil' plants through different eyes. Even his attempts to provide a definition of what a weed is, sheds a different light on these tormentors and the symbiotic roles we have in each others stories.

I found the irony to some of his stories both tragicomic and terrifying. The story of the way in which Cogon grass has infiltrated the Southern States of the USA after its indiscriminate use of Agent Orange in the jungles of Vietnam is particularly stinging.

If you have a moment, you should definitely get hold of a copy - its well worth the read.

I've also begun a series on instagram - #invasiveplantsa - in which I've begun highlighting some of the more dangerous yet beautiful aliens. My hope is that by making them more visible, we would all be able to recognise them and do something serious about them.

You can also check out a previous post about the top 6 aliens and what to do about them.

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