Series 3: The Trans-plant (Invasive Species)

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When Europeans came to America they brought with them seeds, plants, and animals from their own countries. People, plants, and animals were transplants from one place to another on a path to create a “new” world. As a result, new breeds came into existence. Take for example the London Plane tree, a cross breed of two widely divergent species, the American sycamore (Platanus Occidentalis) and the Oriental plane tree (Planatus Orientalis), came together by the hand of an English botanist, John Tradescant the Younger in the early part of the 17th century. The London plane tree can be found all over New York City and Philadelphia because it is tolerant to pollution. New York City is often described as the “premier laboratory of modern life”, a template with offspring propagating across the United States carrying more transplants of people, plants, and animals. Now native, non-native species, and mixed breeds live in this grand experiment called the “American Experience”. Fabricated places designed by humans take root in the psyche and shape thought. It becomes an experience; a lived experience.  I am fascinated by urban and suburban planning in terms of the ingenuity and decision-making in the design process to create these places. Some designs are more thoughtful than others. Some are replica patterns like a factory aiming to produce the same product. The concept of planning the transformation of land for humans to live intrigues me and frightens me at the same time. Here we are natives, transplants and mixed breeds living in a design. What will the future species look like? Will these roots endure the test of time? How deep and far will they go? Like many civilizations before, time will tell.

When I walk in a human-designed landscapes (cities or towns) or the nature-designed landscapes, I note the change in my psyche between the human-designed and the nature-designed places. I also note the native plants, non-native plants, and mixed breeds that took root. Some are considered invasive species. Modern humans created a list of “invasive species”. An invasive species is a species that was introduced to an environment, often by modern humans. Meaning, it is not native to a particular area of land or body of water and as a result has damaged it. The environment has no natural predators or resources to manage the non native species.  It takes over the environment and chokes out other native species. It becomes a super organism. I have often wondered why “modern humans” are not on this list as they are the most invasive to both land and water by polluting, over harvesting, and changing the scape to them both. Capitalism is in service to this super organism. This series explores how modern humans are an invasive species and how we need to change our consumption and wasteful behaviors.

In contrast to the “foreign invasive species” are the “native invasive species”. These are the weeds, flowers, and trees indigenous to North America. Often these are invasive to (European trans-plant) cultured gardens. I find these plants most interesting as they have grit and are tolerant of different conditions. Sadly, they are often eradicated from the land, marginalized to small areas, and replaced by non native garden variety. While I am impressed with human intelligence to transform environments, I cannot help to also see another intelligence lost or at odds.

Lastly, there are the “non-invasive-non-native species” that traveled to new environments deliberately or by accident, took root, but did not invade or prevent the survival of the surrounding native species within the eco-system. They simply exist where they are (e.g. tomatoes and petunias) and pose no threat to native plants near by. There are also native species that threaten other native species. For example “rainbow trout” are considered native to only certain parts of the United States and non-native to other parts. It is considered invasive in some lakes and streams due to its damaging effects on those other native eco-systems.

I am fascinated by these concepts. More works to come. All images are © copyright