Some year’s ago, I read a book titled, “The Myth of the Greener Grass”. In addressing the problem of marital infidelity, the author, J. Allan Petersen, made the argument that, “The appeal of temptation is always to satisfy a legitimate need in a wrong way or at a wrong time.
These words have stuck with me over the years and have been applied to more than just my marriage. We are often tempted to manipulate all sorts of circumstances to appeal to our needs, legitimate and otherwise. Such actions tend to result in all sorts of unintended consequences.
So we find that we’re also tempted to manipulate nature to satisfy a legitimate needs whether on a macro or micro-biological level. As pointed out in an earlier post, settlers brought dandelions with them to the New World in order to attract pollinators to their crops and thus ensure more productive harvests. However, introducing non-native species resulted in a case of – the wrong plant in the wrong place.
Another such nuisance, garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata), originating in Europe, was first recorded in the United States on Long Island, New York in 1868. The leaves do make a nice addition to a salad if harvested early in the growing season. But it’s there that they cease to be of any value.
As with all invasives, the problem is not so much their presence as it is their dominance over native plants. Garlic mustard displaces native spring wildflowers like spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodroot, trilliums, and toothwort. In inhibiting the growth of other plants, wildflowers, even trees, they impact the survival of native animal and insect species that rely on them for food and habitat.
Each season one mustard garlic weed produces hundreds of fine seeds which are carried nearby and multiply the following spring. Although they are the most prevalent in the Northeastern US, they are also found in the Midwest, Southeast, western states and Alaska.
Eradication is particularly difficult as seeds can survive for five or more years before germinating. This means that repeated hand removal, along with the roots, must take place over multiple years before the seed matures and is scattered.
Wrong way, wrong time, wrong place. We need to ask ourselves just how much we ought to manipulate nature to meet our needs. Temptation can be a powerful force, but there is always a price to be paid.