Camp Salmen’s greenery is like a jungle, an immense tangle of trees, bushes and vines in an astonishing variety of leaf. Its one of the visual pleasures of living in our semi-tropical environment. If you have ever traveled out west, where plant-life is scarce, you can appreciate how we have something growing on virtually every available square inch of ground.
Unfortunately, many of the plants that you see don’t belong here. They were never a part of the native ecology and are now known as invaders. Some were brought by man like Tung and Chinese Tallow trees. They were once thought to be commercially beneficial for their oil and were actually promoted by the government to land owners. It was thought Chinese Privet could be grown close together to make inexpensive livestock fencing. Some plants like Christmas Berry, Mimosa, Wisteria and Cherokee Rose were considered pretty and were planted near homes. Some just crept in or hitch-hiked here on their own. Unfortunately, they all got out of hand. Overly aggressive species beat out the natives for sunlight, soil and space. The obnoxious ones can be considered the gutter punks of the Plant Kingdom.
One of our goals at the camp is to bring the park closer to its natural state; the way it may have looked a couple of centuries ago, before people in ships and airplanes started switching around the world’s plant and animal communities. An invasive eradication program has been attempted to give native plants back their space. We have been successful against Chinese Tallow and Cherokee Rose, for instance, because these were easy to find. However, it’s a constant battle with seeds being brought into the park by wind, water and animals and there are many places for these plants to hide. Also, certain aspects of the natural order like fires and floods have been short-circuited and then there is the advent of suburbs. Completely returning the park to an earlier day is a pretty tall order and we’ll try as best we can but the genie is out of the bottle I’m afraid and, like it or not, the world has always been a constantly evolving place.