invasives & permaculture

ivy pull at Capilano Park

Permaculture is all about a thoughtful way of farming or gardening that will allow humans to live with the land for a long, long time to come.

There is some merit to the idea that plants, animals and humans have drifted about this old world throughout the ages and fought it out, that eco-systems are always changing. I encountered this perspective on bio-diversity through the iconic and iconoclastic seedman, J. L. Hudson and I remember reading that idea at about the same time that purple loosestrife was invading the landscapes of southern and central Ontario where I lived. I kept pondering Hudson’s views while, over a matter of a few years, I was able to observe the look of my favorite marsh landscapes changing radically as the loose-strife moved in.

What little I know about eco-systems and how they evolve brings up snippets of information I can recall from a high-school field-trip to a Black Spruce Bog.  A Black Spruce Bog  is a boreal bog forest illustrating the climax stage of succession in a sphagnum bog ecosystem, and is a natural process of change. In comparison to the behavior of invasives, a natural succession of an eco-system seems innocent of the meddlesome hand of man.

Wherever an eco-system is threatened with sudden, catastrophic destruction (as opposed to evolution), it seems too often that man has been the culprit.  It is difficult to observe the destruction of native plant-scapes by such thugs as kudzu vine in the southern U.S., or English ivy in BC and not be concerned.

I have been told that nurseries in BC’s lower mainland still offer English ivy for sale (readers can correct me if I’m wrong!). Educational efforts are on-going regarding invasives  here in BC, as they are throughout Canada. It will eventually be nearly impossible to obtain these plants through the nursery/horticultural trades or elsewhere by anybody but the most determined seeker of “contraband” seeds.

On the other hand, I am not comfortable with the idea of making such plants “illegal” to grow. It seems to me a little childish to ban a plant; instead we should teach people to choose what they grow through well-informed and responsible choices.

We should always remember that what we humans may label a “weed”, for example, Mother Nature created to fill a specific purpose. As humans, we are prone to label plants as “weeds” only because they seem to interfere with our desires and schemes. Instead of observing Nature and cooperating with it, we have too often been in the habit of trying to subdue it or outwit it. That mindset, we are beginning to discover, is something like trying to constantly battle upstream against the current of a relentless river.

While I remain intellectually ambivalent about invasives, on a gut level, I am disturbed enough that this past weekend, I participated in an “ivy pull” event at beautiful Capilano Park.  For some idea of the enormous effort it takes to remove English Ivy once it becomes established, have a look at the videos below. Also check out the photos of the event and check out the utter elimination of any other plants in areas overtaken by the ivy.

To end on a more positive note, do some research on the principles of permaculture design and how it describes a way of living with Nature in an intelligent and less destructive way. That will be our effort in building the community garden at 22nd Street Skytrain Station too. Why don’t you get on board?


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