The ethics of removing invasive plants

Why would you want to remove blackberries? They make blackberries!

So that other things can grow!


I have to admit I have done a bit of vigilante weeding. I manage 50 acres of woodland and have been known to forget to look for border markings as I wander through the woods ripping out garlic mustard. I look up sometimes and realize I’ve traveled many yards into the adjoining watershed woodland. I also have to admit that I find it very hard to walk through public parkland without making repressed “eek!” noises as I see acres upon acres of woodland full of invasive plants.

I’m in the Eastern USA, and in this particular ‘neck of the woods,’ we have problems with garlic mustard, tree-of-heaven, Asiatic bittersweet, wineberry, and barberry (among others) In fact, the native barberry WAS removed, or pretty much so, many years ago following a huge campaign as it was a carrier for black stem rust that affected wheat. Just over one hundred years ago the forest was full of passenger pigeons and the Carolina Parakeet. All these were pretty much deliberately made extinct. So if we can do that as a race then I’m sure we can tackle many of the invasives we have now. I agree though that the untrained ‘person on a mission’ can very likely cause more harm than good. We’ve already lost so much, more than anyone alive can really feel, many of the losses happened generations before now. The invasive flood that is washing over the land in places is really just the green extinction of many of our surviving native species.

Doing nothing is actively enabling this destruction.

If your neighbor’s house had a fire on their front porch, would you leave it, or let the house burn. (yes I know, call the emergency people…but in the meantime the house continues to burn).


I had to look up the Carolina Parakeet!

On a related but somewhat opposing note to the thread, if one of the Carolina Parakeet’s living relatives was released into the wild, I wonder how well it would do? How it could contribute to native ecology? Should an analagous species be released by wildlife agencies to try and restore its role as a forest seed predator (and possibly seed distributor)?

In CA, we had a native ‘California Turkey’ (Meleagris californica) which was made extinct at some point at which I’m not yet clear. However, by the 1960s, there were strong efforts to release the ‘Wild Turkey’ into CA, where it thrives today, probably fulfilling its ecological role which would otherwise now be missing!

Monk parakeets seem a likely candidate but they attract a lot of negative attention where they become established.