Monday, July 31, 2006

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant to Western Pennsylvania, and other places. It is an alien which is now taking over vast pieces of land. At one time I thought it was sort of beautiful. You tell me, is it ...?

There are volunteers in Murrysville who are making great strides towards their laudable goal: The eradication of invasives in the native woods.

Several years ago, before joining and becoming actively involved in the Westmoreland Conservancy, I was oblivious to the concerns to rid the woods of invasives. Which plants are considered invasive, alien or exotic, or whatever the terms may be, were not a concern for several reasons.... a). ignorance: just too busy to know there is a problem, or what the problem really is .. b). priority: the content of the woods seemed pretty consistent to me, with respect to how it has always seemed, so this wasn't a big priority. A higher priority may have been my cultivated flowers, gardens and trees.

Education is the most laudable goal, because future action is two-fold: a). a prospective list of volunteers have to first understand the problem .. and b). There ought to be this mentality amongst the general population that there is a problem, and that each and every individual ought to do something about it on their own and as second nature. Groups of volunteers are fine, but they are hard to organize and get together.

Consider the dandelion: We consistently try to eradicate it from our lawns individually, we pay tons of money for applications (perhaps chemicals that are not too environmentally friendly) to apply to our lawns; or some, like me, take a digger and walk around digging them out one by one; and all the while, we probably don't realize that there are way worse threats to our woods, and since we don't hold a stake in those woods, like we do our lawn, we don't think about it all that much.

If you could get folks to the point where they worry about invasives like the do the dandelion, you are well on your way to a solution, a self-fulfilling resolution to the problem of invasives plant species in our woods.

It's like paying your taxes on April 15th. The government has us to the point of being slaves for them. We rush out with our checks made out to Uncle Sam, and we feel good about it. Now that's brain washing. If only we could get people to the same point about invasives.

I've been told by others concerned that " efforts of selectively encouraging the growth of certain plants & discouraging the growth of others may be considered a form of 'gardening' - in contrast to letting a place develop in a completely natural way." This is an important point that I agree with, because these efforts, when taken beyond the areas near paths and into areas not much touched by man, may actually do " more damage than they prevent, by disturbing earth and inadvertently damaging 'good' plants;" and that "over time, any such effort may be rendered moot anyway, as plants naturalize and a balance of distribution is restored." Certainly these are good points that need to be balanced with any efforts to eradicate the invasives. Perhaps the noble goal of education will be enhanced once it is decided what that balance ought to be. For instance, eradication may only be desirable to areas which are along paths.

Last spring I discovered the extent of garlic mustard proliferation at the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel. It is way-worse than Murrysville. Folks ought to take a trip there in the spring, to discover first hand the foreboding of what might happen in Murrysville and other more rural locals that are just beginning to become overgrown with invasives. It certainly opened my eyes!!!


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