This column has ranted before about all the invasive plant species from China that have firmly established themselves at Camp Salmen — Tallow trees, Wisteria, Christmasberry, Cherokee rose, Chinese privet, Mimosa trees and a whole slew of others. They have found a welcoming environment here because China happens to be at the same latitudes as the U.S.A. and has a similar climate. Some of these newcomers outcompete the natives for sunlight, habitat and nutrients and are very aggressive about taking over certain ecological niches. Once established, they are hard, if not impossible, to stop.
Plants and animals from China and other parts of the world have gotten here since planes, trains, automobiles and container ships were invented and put to extensive use. Sometimes the reasons are unintentional (fire ants where imported to Houston in a shipment of tires), sometimes on purpose (Tallow trees were promoted for colonial America’s candle making) and sometimes just insane, (Giant Apple Snails would make GREAT aquarium pets!). They get loose. They breed. They multiply.
These species are in the middle of upsetting the natural balance that was achieved by the many plant and animal communities that evolved together here over thousands, even millions of years to achieve North America’s native ecology. The upshot is that much of the vegetative landscape of our world will be quite different than that which our forebears had encountered only a relatively short time ago.
Well now, when it comes to invasive species, the good news is that North America is giving as good as it gets. North American species that are raising their own kind of heck in China include Muskrat, Canadian geese, crayfish, webworms, Loblolly pine mealy bugs, American rice water weevils, good old American cockroaches (a.k.a. Palmetto bugs), Wooly Apple aphids, Red-eared turtles, North American pinewood nematodes, Black spot fungus and those favorite sneeze-makers — ragweed and Goldenrod. Do the Chinese say, “ah-choo”?
And there’s more; invaders to the U.S. and China from other parts of the world include nutria from Argentina, Norwegian rats, pine scale from Japan, German cockroaches, grape root louse from France, Mexican tea weed plus alligator weed and water hyacinth from South American wetlands.
So you see, it’s a big, wide, wonderfully generous world making one big pot of gumbo as we jet, truck and ship the world’s DNA into one big, biosphere-encompassing mishmash – then let’s see what we end up with.