Plants that are considered noxious weeds and plants that are harmful to our natural environment are pretty different things.
If you look at who has authority under the Federal Noxious Weed Act, you'll see it is the department of agriculture. They really don't care about natural areas much at all, they only care about how much agriculture you can get out of a piece of land. If a plant impacts this, it is considered noxious.
A prime example of this is the USDA noxious weeds list for my state, https://plants.usda.gov/java/noxious?rptType=State&statefips...
It doesn't even include truly heinous invasives like Privet, japanese/amur honeysuckle, or garlic mustard, but DOES include a couple of natives like grape vines and butterweed!!
It's pretty disheartening, because a lot of people don't realize this and it can cause some issues. I am friends with someone at a local nature center where they remove butterweed due to it being considered a noxious weed even though it is not at all invasive and is a native wildflower.
They also tied it into the immigration debate, which I thought was interesting. They mainly played off the fact that the same people who are pro-immigration are often pro-native plants. Is it really the best idea to eradicate species from regions, when we could just learn how to live together more effectively?
I feel like I probably did a very poor job reiterating all of that. We've really enjoyed listening to that podcast though.
People are destroying native plant habitats, and creating the perfect conditions for invasives. In fact 90+% of native species aren't threatened by invasives. The invasives actually help heal the soil for native plants.
The author then asks, why then is there a war on invasives? And that's where the book gets good imo.
Ghetto palm also attracts the latest chinese hell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_lanternfly
It turns out not only does it fix nitrogen, it improves the yields of nearby plants (in this case blueberries) and its fruit is edible to both me and the chickens. So it gets to stay after all. I'm glad I looked it up.
I have 5 shrubs at my house and I'd identified at least 10 different stands of this plant in my locale. Birds spread the seed which love to take over space after humans destory the ecosystem.
They grow about 9-15 feet high, the berries are delicious but a bit astringent, meaning they make your mouth feel dry.
My opinion based on his work and others is that kudzu and others dramatically reduce biodiversity and upsetting ecological balances that took thousands of years to create. It's wonderful that pests show up to consume kudzu (like the bug referenced in the article), but it's not the same as a native species occupying the same niche that provides forage, pollen, seeds, habitat, and other necessities that make native insect populations thrive, which in turn supports larger fauna like birds, mammals, etc.
>More important, it obscures the beauty of the South’s original landscape, reducing its rich diversity to a simplistic metaphor.
The destruction of that 'rich diversity' is the problem. It's same way Himalayan blackberries take over roadsides and provide monoculture ecosystems in the northwest. That 'rich diversity creates canopy layers used by different wildlife, bird and insect species. How many species were adapted to living in the natural habitat there before those kudzu patches, while not as big as sensationalism says, have overrun other natural species.
Introduced species that dominate the ecosystems they're introduced to cause more problems then we can even understand because in many cases, the historical data just doesn't exist and we're not even sure what was lost.
When I was a kid, we were told stories of kudzu growing feet per day, and of people going away for a trip and coming home finding their house engulfed. Southerners legitimately thought it would grow to engulf everything. However, as the author points out, the giant fields of it that were there when I was a kid, are still there today, and they aren’t much bigger than they were then.
It swarms over sidewalks/power poles/lawns. The city has to come cut it back every 3 to 4 weeks, and I consistently lose bike lane space to it.
Now - it was here when I moved in, so maybe in the absence of kudzu, something else would be doing the same thing.
But it really does seem to love the spaces that we've cleared for use, and it makes keeping them clear much harder.
One house that was flipped about a year ago borders a large patch of it. The flippers put up a fence to block the hillside (sloping down away from the house) and stop it coming into the yard. It's about 13 months later now, and it's about to drag the fence down. I've seen the folks who moved in clear it off the fence at least twice.
That said, you can go a mile over and struggle to find any, since the soil/sunlight conditions are different.
I would hesitate to buy property with large swathes of it nearby, since it truly is a nuisance. That said, areas we haven't cleared seem mostly free of it. So more of a people problem, less of an ecological problem.
But he did find that goats will eat it -- if there isn't anything tastier around.
And it’s that same with Himalayan blackberry in Washington. It chokes out our native berries. We have patches of salmon berry, native blackberry and salal in my area that are under threat from himalayan blackberry.
Then the next year I thought they'd all vanished, until I looked at a kuzdu vine and noticed it was covered in them. It's almost like they didn't know where the kudzu was when they showed up, but now that they've found it that's where they stay.
A contrapuntal perspective, which I haven't gotten around to reading yet, is "Beyond Invasive Species" by Tao Orion. Not an expert, but I would imagine that as in most things, the first rule of permaculture/ecology should be "first do no harm."
I often hear that the southeastern U.S. has some of the highest biodiversity of anywhere on earth, but as someone who grew up there, I'm not sure that it's really that apparent, at least visually. The vegetation all the way from Atlanta up to Maine tends to look like this (https://static.rootsrated.com/image/upload/s--nsRlDT5Y--/t_r...). If you dropped me in the woods in any state along the east coast, I wouldn't be able to identify which state I was in. Perhaps there is diversity in the number of species, but the trees and plants themselves don't look that different from each other. I moved to the west coast two years ago, and at least in appearances, it seems like there is more biodiversity (https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Od2CTO9JsJw/Wq7QDGEtQ6I/AAAAAAAAD...). Does anyone know what might explain the discrepancy? Just north of SF, there are redwood trees and cypress trees, which look strikingly different from each other.
Also, for those of you that grew up on the west coast, I'm curious what was your subjective impression of the vegetation in the southeast the first time you visited?
As for your pictures:
All in the Southeast.
With that said, as a Floridian I was happy to see palm trees again when I moved to the Bay Area. It's nice there.
It's my understanding that California has more spiky plants than broadleafs due to the dry-summer climate. Most of the Southeast is broadleaf because it's very wet year-round. Plants with small leaves reveal more about their structure from a distance while broadleaf forests form a green blanket. So the biodiversity in California might be a little more visible. Southwest Florida has a semi-xeric climate as well but with dry and warm winters, similar to southern Mexico, and various species of cacti can be found.
I hadn't known of the beetle mentioned in the article, but I've seen wild grapevines beat kudzu in a couple places the past decade and wondered why. Suspect that's the reason.
I'm sure the truth is somewhere in between, as invasive species always displace something, even with moderate penetration.
Kudzu in combination with other herbs was considered for covid during early times. I subscribe to homeopathy myself rather than herbalism and found Byronia Alba a close substitute. Altho I use it as a prophylactic. (Not medical advice. It’s just for my own constitution and supports my constitutional remedy. Not falsifiable)