[permaculture] Re: Invasive species

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Sep 3 17:51:10 EDT 2004

On 9/1/04 5:58 PM, "David Neeley" <dbneeley at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I would point to
> some of the various species of bamboo as being extremely
> invasive here and there...to the point that native species
> of plants may be completely choked out over substantial
> areas if left unchecked.

David, could you back this up with some data? What native plants are being
choked out? Where? Are these species at all endangered? Is this in pristine
native habitat, or are we talking road margins, abandoned gardens, suburban
yards, or other badly compromised habitat?

Bamboo scares people because it runs, expanding outward from edges of the
planting. It's actually one of the least damaging "invasive" species because
it generally doesn't propagate by seed, thus it cannot move far from where
it is planted--which is always near human settlements, i.e. in compromised

I've seen bamboo cover a couple dozen square meters over 20 years in
disturbed forest edges or in degraded riparian zones, but I've not
encountered evidence that those situations endanger any species; it just
bothers people to see a stand of feral bamboo as big as a house. And right
there is a hint about what kind of "damage" is being done by bamboo and many
other "invasives." The footprint of a single house, or one lawn, (let alone
a square mile of soybeans for our soy milk), will "choke out" more natives
than a patch of bamboo. Plenty of native birds, insects, mammals, and soil
organisms are happy to live in a bamboo grove, but not in a lawn or
building. So why do we freak out about bamboo, or other perfectly nice
plants when one large grove does far less damage than, say, 2 minutes of
bulldozer work?

There's a local organization (Portland, Oregon), the No Ivy League, that
fanatically kills English ivy in local parks. I find it ironic to see ivy
being hated and sprayed, when, though it's not superb habitat, it supports
far more wildlife than the acres of short-mown grass adjacent to the ivy the
League is maniacally clearing. I think we need to re-examine the idea that
certain species are bad when a bit of cool observation reveals that on the
scale of ecological damage-doers (farming, development, lawns . . .) they
rank very, very low.



More information about the permaculture mailing list