Late last week, alert employees of the Vermont Marble Power Division of Omya, Inc. spotted an odd looking fish in Otter Creek near their Sutherland Falls plant in Proctor. The employees collected the fish and contacted the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Department fisheries biologist Shawn Good later identified the 15-inch, 2.5-pound fish as a Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus). The Pacu, native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America, belongs to the Serrasalminae fish family, which also includes the various species of Piranha. Pacu can grow quite large, up to 36 inches or more, even in captivity. Despite their size, they are a popular aquarium fish species, and are widely found in pet shops and private aquaria across the country. "Many aquarium fish like this Pacu are often kept by hobbyists because they are considered exotic and out of the ordinary," explained Good, who chairs the department's Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee. "However, even when kept in larger aquariums, many of these exotic fish species will outgrow their owner's ability to care and maintain them." Unfortunately, when pet fish outgrow their aquarium homes, many misguided owners choose to release them into a nearby waterbody, thinking they are doing their pet a favor by setting them free. "Illegal aquarium releases are a common source of exotic species introductions in the U.S.," said Good. "More than 38 species of unwanted fish and dozens of plants, crayfish, and snails have become established in waters of the U.S. These species not only impact native aquatic ecosystems, but they also affect the economy and recreational activities that rely on these ecosystems. While the environmental and economic consequences for many exotic species are unknown, some infestations have cost millions of dollars for control and management. Eurasian watermilfoil and the northern snakehead fish are just two examples that probably originated from aquarium sources. This incident marks the latest of many discoveries of exotic aquarium fish swimming around in Vermont waters. In 2005, a fisherman caught an Oscar - also a South American fish species from the Amazon region - while bass fishing in Lake Hortonia in Rutland County. That same year, a Middlebury College professor found a tropical catfish in Lake Dunmore, in Addison County. Even the common goldfish has been found living, and unfortunately even thriving, in some Vermont lakes and ponds. "It seems that the general public is largely unaware of the dangers posed by releasing aquarium fish into Vermont's waters," said Good. "I can't stress enough how serious this is". Some aquarium fish, plants and other aquatic animals such as exotic snails can devastate Vermont's natural habitats and severely impact our native aquatic ecosystems if they are released into the wild. They may also introduce dangerous disease organisms that can severely impact native fish and wildlife populations." "In this case, the Pacu that was released into Otter Creek would never have survived the coming cold weather, because it requires a warm climate," Good said. "However, if it had been another species like the northern snakehead, it would be an altogether different situation. There are many species of common aquarium fish that could establish populations in Vermont if they were released, and that could cause immense damage to our native fish populations and ecosystems." Because of this threat, a new regulation was passed in 2009 listing fish species that are prohibited from being imported, sold or possessed in Vermont. The purpose is to protect Vermont's valuable natural resources. The list includes a number of aquarium fish species. For more information on the Prohibited, Restricted, and Unrestricted Fish Species rule, visit the Department's website at http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com and follow the link under Law Enforcement to "Rules and Proposed Rules." "In addition to the new regulation," said Good, "it is illegal to release fish into the public waters of Vermont." The potential penalty for unlawful introduction of fish to Vermont waters is a $500 fine. Rather than releasing unwanted aquarium fish and plants into the wild, there are other, more environmentally sound and legal, approaches, such as give them to another aquarium owner, advertise to give them away or donate them to a public facility, nursing home, or business that has an aquarium or water garden. If these options are not available, you can dispose of the fish by placing it in a container of water and putting it into the freezer. Because cold temperature is a natural anesthetic to tropical fishes, this is considered an acceptable method of euthanasia. New sightings of exotic species should be reported immediately to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 241-3700, or a local Fish & Wildlife District office. Preferably reports should be accompanied with a photo of the fish. For more information on the dangers and risks of releasing aquarium pets and plants into the wild, visit Habitattitude's website at http://www.habitattitude.net/. __________________
Invasion Nation: Anthropogenic dispersal of pioneering species and their perception as invasive rather than successive or beneficial in the industrial era.
Abstract: Organisms are inherently migratory and seeds, fungi, bacteria and insects have dispersed across continents. Human dispersal and natural dispersal are inherently equal in our ability to distribute other species, however, we degrade ecosystems and have co-evolved with numerous other survivors of our civilization, in places that have been disturbed, some organisms thrived in the face of this adversity and reproduce in higher numbers, more frequently and produce enough stored energy to survive long migrations and extreme conditions. Investigations into the true nature of invasive species reveal political ambitions to maintain chemical industrial infrastructure in farming at all costs and make carcinogenic chemicals somehow seem more benign than organisms that have crosses a political boundary. The study of invasion biology has lost sight of succession, acclimation and other fundamental beliefs in the fluid nature of life on earth, and ecological facts. Invasion Biologists' view a static world where very little contact and migration occurs and ignore many relationships that are beneficial or unaffected by each other's presence. To determine the extent that a local forest had been subdued by non native species, samples along 4 transects were counted and identified. There were no observable effects on native species from grasses or dandelions identified close to paved or dirt roads. Introduction: Humans and countless other migratory species have traveled long distances, and often transported other organisms within their migratory movements as they expand and contract their territory. In evolutionary biology, species recede and advance in pulsing patterns as climatic changes occur. Sometimes this takes place more rapidly than their ability to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, other times it makes areas that had been hostile and makes them ideal. Birds have migrated thousands of miles annually for millions of years often dispersing organisms. Storm events such as hurricanes and floods have been known to redistribute species thousands of miles, often as seeds and spores, a surviving in both salt and fresh water. Natural dispersal of organisms is found to be frequent and long distance, and receiving biota are resilient and accustomed to such events. Man aided dispersal can in no way be distinguished from natural dispersal (Theodoropolous 2001). As we approach the sixth mass extinction of planet earth, attributed primarily to anthropogenic disturbances, is it logical to label certain highly adaptable species as “invasive”,“noxious or“alien when they may be the best suited for small scale wild harvesting, bioremediation and wildlife habitat in some areas? In a theory that aims to suggest a consistent reason for invasions asserts that a plant community becomes more susceptible to invasion when there is an increase in the amount of an unused resource (Davis et. Al 2000). The use of the term invasive species was first coined by Charles Elton in 1953. Elton was highly influenced by a fellow Oxford student, Alexander Carr Saunders, secretary of the Eugenics Education Society, which promoted the study and practice of selective breeding in humans. Eugenics also suggested pseudo-scientific notions of racial and ethnic superiority and was crucial to Nazi scientists who justified genocide and human experimentation through this scientific discipline. The prejudiced mentality towards living organisms deemed “out of place” migrated into the sub discipline of invasion biology. Terms such as genetic pollution, which are still used today, have the heritage of a hate-based philosophy, and often trigger reactionary emotional responses to romanticized ideals of nature rather than logic or sound scientific reasoning.“the field of invasion ecology has largely dissociated itself from other sub-disciplines of ecology, particularly succession ecology”(Davis et al 2001). The sub disciplines of invasion biology or invasion ecology are controversial within ecology and have far reaching ecological and economic consequences. (Grime, J.P. 2001) Chemical corporations stand to lose billions of dollars if a more relaxed stance is taken towards invasive species, or integrated pest management begins to take favor, governmental and private eradication programs could loose funding and many researchers and field workers could loose their jobs. Monsanto, the maker of Round-up, the most common of all herbicides containing the compound glyphosate, falsified data on at least 2 occasions in scientific laboratories. Monsanto has also been convicted of false advertising in French court, and has created more than 30 superfund sites. In terms of habitat destruction, threats to global biodiversity, soil erosion and water contamination, the three plants that have consumed the largest areas of land are wheat, corn and soya. Although these plants do not often colonize undisturbed habitat, their use as an agricultural commodity, especially when grown in large monocultures that often contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) may pose the greatest threat of any species, displacing more native species than any other organisms. The use of “round-up ready”GMO plants has spurred what scientists call “superweeds”. These are crops that are round up ready (resistant to glyphosate) that have spread from one field to another, and also common weeds like Palmer Amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), which has selected a glyphosate resistant gene after constant exposure to the substance. While some see invasive species as“the second greatest threat to biodiversity”(Vitousek 1996) others view invasive species as a solemn symbol of succession, resilience and abundance. They symbolize a reminder that nature always finds a way to rebuild it self, literally from the ground up. Seeds, like most organisms, have evolved to survive in the most hash conditions, but are much less likely to succeed outside of their optimal range of preferred soil and climate. After countless generations of breeding and selection, both with and without human intervention, some terrestrial plants have evolved to favor soil and microclimates that has been modified by human use. Feral waste areas are often mistaken for being crowded out by invasive alien species, when in fact, they are the only thing that can survive there at that time, filling the niche of an extinct or ecologically extinct organism. Ecologists coined the term “subsidized species” to describe organisms that respond well to human activity (Klemens 2000). There is research coming out demonstrating the possible benefits of of some introduced species. Although it receives much less funding from herbicide companies than studies that include massive eradication efforts. Beneficial relationships between introduced species and native have often been overlooked and understated. They often provide forage for both native and domesticated animals, including cows, goats, chickens, turkey, ducks, bees, deer, butterflies, birds, and countless others. Invasive species have often been introduced as a ground-cover, to hold in exposed soils and preventing erosion. Many aquatic species such as water hyacinth can remove toxins from human sources of water pollution, and can then be used to make bio fuels and other non-food products. Almost every introduced species in the United States prior to World War II had some kind of use in medical professions or as a food or fodder crop for livestock. When post-war suburbia became an institution, people began to look down upon growing a food garden as backwards and a sign of poverty, and suddenly there was a much larger yards and lawns than people had owned before, so landscape companies and nurseries began importing“exotic”plants as show pieces in their yard to add color, textures and sophistication to their yard. Most of these plants cannot survive in the wild, but there are exceptions that adapt to, and thrive in some local or wide ranging conditions. We can see similar trends in flora that followed the destruction of habitat for rail travel in the United States and how plants adapted to the newly disturbed train track areas. Some species such as Eucalyptus, where planted along the railroads to serve as future railroad ties were later found to be inadequate. Although Eucalyptus serves many functions in native habitats, it may also alter other aspects of nearby native plants, animals and aquifers.
Methods: To determine if terrestrial plants labeled invasive truly reduce biodiversity in undisturbed natural habitats, waste areas or ecotones of two such areas. By making an evaluation of what species and how many are present in each samples of 4 zones establishes an idea of what plants are tolerant of non native species and if areas that contain non natives there is a reduced diversity of native species. If there are invasive species present, they should lower the diversity of the area and occur in an unrivaled abundance, limiting or prohibiting the growth of native species. Using a tape measurer to determine a transect and recording the different species present in 4 locations along 10ft. x 1ft. strip of vegetation progressively distant from a paved road. If a plant is truly invasive and a threat to native species it will have migrated out of disturbed, shoulder areas into areas that contain primarily native species. After identifying the species present, and determining which, if any were labeled invasive species it could determine wether any of the invasive species might prohibit any natives from completing their natural cycles of reproduction. To determine the proper identification of terrestrial plants I employ a typical guide to the the most common and invasive plants of North America.
Results: After identifying and counting all the observable species along transects in 4 zones, there was no evidence indicating that any non-native species had either colonized outside of disturbed areas, crowded out native vegetation or reduced biodiversity on this site. The biodiversity was higher in some areas that contained non native species than areas where only natives were present. The most abundant species in the area were native wild flowers, and all 4 transects were within 100 feet of a paved or dirt road. Although this study is small and produces inconclusive evidence scientifically, it does not fit any theories about invasive species and how they interact with natives in terrestrial habitats. While grasses and dandelions might be a big problem for agriculture and industry, it does not seem to be much of a problem for forests, deer or bees.
The other possible invasive species that was present was grass. It is unknown to me at this time if this species of grass is native or introduced, but I find it safe to assume that it has been in contact, and hybridized with at least one non native grass, so I will give the benefit of the doubt that it is potentially an invasive species. It occurred in limited numbers in the 2 samples closest to the paved road. In most situations except the most fragile ecologies such as deserts oases and small tropical islands where there is a small population of endemic and rare species, it is much more likely that both native and non-native species will learn to cope with each others company, and while species are constantly going extinct for many reasons, invaders will also continue to adapt, evolve and continue to migrate as conditions continue their cycles of fluctuation and succession. When Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) invaded Lake Erie it lowered eutrophication levels, which lead to more invertebrate growth, resulting in a 5 time increase in yellow perch catch between 1990 and 1996 (Sagoff 1999). Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Waterlettuce (Pistia stratiotes) have increased dragonfly species richness in South America by providing perching and refuge sites for them (Steward and Samways, 1998)
Discussion: Although it does not surprise me that an ecosystem by the road side could be resilient from outside invaders, there are always threats lurking from not so far away places. The only a few non native plants were noted, and they were closest to the road, occupying waste soil, and relatively few of them; the dandelion (taxacarum officinale), a plant that has been cultivated and documented by humans as a green and medicinal root for centuries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as a consistent food source for domesticated animals and dozens of species of wildlife in North America. It is rumored that sailors used dandelions on sea voyages to prevent scurvy, with abundant Vitamin C present in their leaves, and there is evidence they were brought to the New World both accidentally and intentionally on early voyages of explorers and settlers. It has been used in phenology studies to track changing temperatures and their relationships to the flowering time of plants. While many domesticated crops failed to show any difference, wild plants have responded to changing temperatures by flowering earlier in the spring. Dandelion is an excellent candidate for further studies of wider scope in phenology because it is so common. While many rare species such as keystones species continue to be killed intentionally by humans or by our development and consumption habits, a wide range of species have also adapted to tolerate our presence and in some cases, thrive from our impact on the planet, some in captivity, some free to roam and procreate in the wild. While reductions in biodiversity may be taking place, it is unfounded and naive to assume that“invasive species”bear much responsibility towards our loss of diversity when global warming and climate change, over development and consumption. The threat of “invasive species”is more often used as a selling point of chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides than by real ecologists. The Chemical Industry thrives on the psychological view of invasive species and many pests in general as scapegoats that creates a culture of fear towards the natural world and promotes the constant expansion of large scale agriculture, mining and development into natural habitats which poses a far greater risk to biodiversity than exotic plants can ever impact any ecosystem.
Literature: Theodoropoulos, D.I., (2003), Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, Blythe, Ca: Avvar McNeely, J., (2001), Land Use and Water Resources Research, Invasive species: a costly catastrophe for native biodiversity, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Programme, Gland, Switzerland Inoue, M.N., Goka, K. (2009), The invasion of alien ants across continents with special reference to Argentine Ants and Red Imported Fire Ants. Biodiversity, 10(2) 67-71. Grime, J.P. (2001), Plant Strategies, Vegetation Processes, and Ecosystem Properties.Chichester:John Wiley & Sons, LTD Johnson, E.A., & Klemens, M.W. (Eds.). (2005), Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Sprawl, New York: Columbia University Press Colautti, Robert I., MacIsaac, Hugh J. (2004), A neutral terminology to define 'invasive' species" (PDF), Diversity and Distributions 10: 135–141, Hails, Rosie; Timms-Wilson, Tracey, (2007) Genetically modified organisms as invasive species? In: Nentwig, Wolfgang, (ed.) Biological Invasions. Springer, 293-310. (Ecological Studies, 193). Charles S. Elton and the Dissociation of Invasion Ecology from the Rest of Ecology, by Mark A. Davis, Ken Thompson and J. Philip Grime, (2001) Diversity and Distributions, Blackwell Publishing
Charles S. Elton and the dissociation of invasion ecology from the rest of ecology Blackwell Science, Ltd MARK A. DAVIS1,*, KEN THOMPSON2 and J. PHILIP GRIMES, Department of Biology, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN 55105 USA, 651–696–6102, *Corresponding author, E-mail: email@example.com; 2Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, The Universityof Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
Abstract. Despite several decades of research, the field of invasion ecology has not been very successful in developing reliable generalizations regarding the mechanisms and predictability of invasions. In this essay, we argue that one impedi- ment in the field’s development has been that the field of invasion ecology has largely dissociated itself from other subdisciplines of ecology, par- ticularly succession ecology. Taking an historical approach, we suggest that this dissociation began with Charles S. Elton, the generally acknowledged father of invasion biology. We argue further that, despite periodic calls to end what some have regarded as a spurious distinction between native colonizers and introduced invaders,
INTRODUCTION Species invasions are widely recognized as a serious threat to environments and economies throughout the world (Wilcove et al., 1998; Dukes & Mooney, 1999; Pimental et al., 2000). Unfortun- ately, ecologists have not been able to provide much assistance to land managers because the field of invasion ecology has progressed so slowly. A recent assessment of the field has concluded that it is still largely anecdotal, with few reliable generalizations (Williamson, 1999). We believe that the field’s development has been hampered for decades due to an unfortunate dissociation from other fields of ecology, particularly succession ecology. The dissociation of invasion ecology from succession ecology is apparent from any casual invasion ecology has continued to pursue its own generalizations with limited success. We suggest this dissociation may be exacerbated further by incentives produced by the realities of publishing and securing funding for research and also by the use of electronic search engines to identify related articles. We offer several examples of how invasion ecology has benefited from research on succession and regeneration conducted on native species and conclude that the field of invasion ecology would do well to do more of this type of communica- tion and collaboration among subdisciplines. Key words. Biological invasions, invasion ecology, succession, Charles Elton. examination of the bibliographies of papers from the two fields. Each seldom cites the other. For example, three of the most recent and thorough assessments of invasion ecology are by Lonsdale (1999), Williamson (1999), and Dukes & Mooney (1999). Together the three articles contained 182 citations. Of these citations, 106 included the words ‘alien’, ‘nonindigenous’ and /or some form of the word ‘invasive or invader’. Not one cita- tion includes the words ‘succession’, ‘recovery’, or ‘secondary’. A very different pattern is revealed by a review of the bibliographies of recent succes- sion articles. For example, three recent articles on subalpine forest succession ( Donnegan & Rebertus, 1999), tropical succession (Hughes et al., 1999) and succession following hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and massive forest fires (Turner et al., 1997) contain 202 references combined.
For most people, a hike through the woods is just a hike. But for some Vermonters it can be like a trip to the grocery store. Wild edible foragers pull everything from the obvious mushrooms and berries, to obscure greens, roots, and barks. We talk with two foraging experts, Les Hook and Nova Kim, who supply restaurants around the state with their findings, and lead educational workshops.
WILD GOURMET CSA!
We collect and use only the finest, ethically, wildcrafted ingredients (collected by ourselves).
This includes a wide range of unusual and hard-to-locate plants (yes, mushrooms are plants, too) and, never collect more than we anticipate we will need for ourselves, for market, membership, reserve and for gifting.
Therefore, we limit the number of memberships we will accept and keep only a very limited supply on hand from season to season.
It has always been our policy to promote and encourage alternative economic resources besides "just" timber or agribusiness.
We promote the use of our wild edibles while conducting and collecting research on the various plant forms (native and immigrants) occurring in the wild, encouraging and educating the public to the benefits derived from their usage, and helping to preserve the plants' natural habitat, thus ensuring a continuing supply for generations to come.
Please contact us directly if you would like additional information or would like to sign up. Thank you!
Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.
A study of birds, beasts, fish, and plants that have undone a paradisiacal New World.Todd, a Montana-based writer, knows well that the true culprits are not rats, starlings, and "Hessian flies," but the humans who knowingly or unwittingly introduced them into North American ecosystems. Lampreys, once blocked from entrance by the natural barrier of Niagara Falls, now swim in the western Great Lakes because humans built canals to bypass such impediments; nutrias and parakeets now fill the southern swamps and national skies because pet lovers were careless about their charges' whereabouts; brown trout fill rivers and lakes because wildlife managers put them there. Even so, Todd profiles not thoughtless humans but such dangerously pesky critters as the pigeon, which came to dominate the American cityscape in the 20th century (as she notes, an 1883 article on bird life in New York's Central Park "curses the flocks of noisy sparrows but doesn't mention a single pigeon"); the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, which displaced native pollinators (and is now itself being displaced by hybrids); and the mosquito, which, Todd notes, augured the extinction of countless Hawaiian bird species, the victims of avian malaria and other diseases. This study amounts in the end to a skillfully written series of natural-history sketches, but little more. In the face of the ever-quickening destruction of native ecosystems through the introduction of alien species—rabbits in Australia, pine trees in South Africa, kudzu in the southeastern US—Todd is curiously dispassionate. Peter Matthiessen's Wildlife in America, now 40 years old, is in many ways more urgent, as are more recent books like Jason and Roy van Driesche's Nature Out of Place and Harold Mooney and Richard Hobbs's Invasive Species in a Changing World. All are far more useful, too, for readers concerned with environmental issues of the sort Todd touches on.Overall, a readable but distinctly ancillary account.
by Craig Elevitch and Kim Wilkinson P.O. Box 428, Holualoa, HI 96725 USA agroforestry.net copyright 1995,1998 (Printed originally in the Permaculture International Journal, Issue No. 56)
Nitrogen Fixing Trees for Agroforestry Nitrogen fixation is a pattern of nutrient cycling which has successfully been used in perennial agriculture for millennia. This article focuses on legumes, which are nitrogen fixers of particular importance in agriculture. Specifically, tree legumes (nitrogen fixing trees, hereafter called NFTs) are especially valuable in subtropical and tropical agroforestry. They can be integrated into an agroforestery system to restore nutrient cycling and fertility self-reliance.
On unvegetated sites, "pioneer" plants (plants which grow and thrive in harsh, low-fertility conditions) begin the cycling of nutrients by mining and accumulating available nutrients. As more nutrients enter the biological system and vegetative cover is established, conditions for other non-pioneering species become favorable. Pioneers like nitrogen fixing trees tend to benefit other forms of life by boosting fertility and moderating harsh conditions.
NFTs are often deep rooted, which allows them to gain access to nutrients in subsoil layers. Their constant leaf drop nourishes soil life, which in turn can support more plant life. The extensive root system stabilizes soil, while constantly growing and atrophying, adding organic matter to the soil while creating channels for aeration. There are many species of NFTs that can also provide numerous useful products and functions, including food, wind protection, shade, animal fodder, fuel wood, living fence, and timber, (see chart for specific species yields) in addition to providing nitrogen to the system.
Nitrogen: From the Air to the Plants
Nitrogen is often referred to as a primary limiting nutrient in plant growth. Simply put, when nitrogen is not available plants stop growing. Although lack of nitrogen is often viewed as a problem, nature has an immense reserve of nitrogen everywhere plants grow--in the air. Air consists of approximately 80% nitrogen gas (N2), representing about 6400 kg of N above every hectare of land. However, N2 is a stable gas, normally unavailable to plants. Nitrogen fixation, a process by which certain plants "fix" or gather atmospheric N2 and make it biologically available, is an underlying pattern in nature. (See box below for details on how nitrogen fixation works).
How to Use NFTs in a System
In the tropics, most of the available nutrients (over 75%) are not in the soil but in the organic matter. In subtropical and tropical forests, nutrients are constantly cycling through the ecosystem. Aside from enhancing overall fertility by accumulating nitrogen and other nutrients, NFTs establish readily, grow rapidly, and regrow easily from pruning. They are perfectly suited to jump-start organic matter production on a site, creating an abundant source of nutrient-rich mulch for other plants. Many fast-growing NFTs can be cut back regularly over several years for mulch production.
The NFTs may be integrated into a system in many different ways including clump plantings, alley cropping, contour hedgerows, shelter belts, or single distribution plantings. (See figure below). As part of a productive system, they can serve many functions: microclimate for shade-loving crops like coffee or citrus (cut back seasonally to encourage fruiting); trellis for vine crops like vanilla, pepper, and yam; mulch banks for home gardens; and living fence and fodder sources around animal fields.
FAO, 1984. Legume Inoculants and Their Use, FAO of the United Nations, Rome. Excellent practical handbook for inoculation.
MacDicken, Kenneth G. 1994. Selection and Management of Nitrogen-Fixing Trees. Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.
National Academy of Sciences. 1979. Tropical Legumes: Resources for the Future, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C..
Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association (Currently the FACT Net). 1989-1994. NFT Highlights. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.
There are no poisonous look-alikes. Other very similar Taraxacum species, as well as chicory and wild lettuce only resemble dandelions in the early spring. All these edibles also exude a white milky sap when injured, but chicory and wild lettuce leaves have some hair, at least on the underside of the midrib, while Taraxacum leaves are bald. Unlike the other genera, Taraxacum stays in a basal rosette. It never grows a tall, central, stalk bearing flowers and leaves. Dandelions are especially well-adapted to a modern world of "disturbed habitats," such as lawns and sunny, open places. They were even introduced into the Midwest from Europe to provide food for the imported honeybees in early spring. They now grow virtually worldwide. Dandelions spread further, are more difficult to exterminate, and grow under more under adverse circumstances than most competitors.
Most gardeners detest them, but the more you try to weed them up, the faster they grow.
The taproot is deep, twisted, and brittle.
Unless you remove it completely, it will regenerate. If you break off more pieces than you unearth, the dandelion wins. "What's a dandelion digger for?" a dandelion asked.
"Itís a human invention to help us reproduce," another dandelion replied.
Collect dandelion leaves in early spring, when they're the tastiest, before the flowers appear. Harvest again in late fall. After a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Dandelions growing in rich, moist soil, with the broadest leaves and largest roots, are the best. Select the youngest individuals, and avoid all plants with flowers. Some people eat the greens from spring to fall, when they're very bitter. Others boil out the summer bitterness (and water-soluble vitamins) out in two changes of water. Itís all a matter of preference.
Dandelion greens are wonderful in salads, sautÈed or steamed. They taste like chicory and endive, with an intense heartiness overlying a bitter tinge.
People today shun bitter flavorsótheyíre so conditioned by overly sweet or salty processed food. But in earlier times, we distinguished between good and bad bitterness. Mixed with other flavors, as in a salad, dandelions improve the flavor.
I also love sautÈing them for about 20 minutes with onions and garlic in olive oil, adding a little home-made wine before they're done. If you're not used to the slight bitterness, cook them with sweet vegetables, especially sliced carrots and parsnips. Boiling dandelions in one or more changes of water makes them milderóa good introduction if you're new to natural foods. Early spring is also the time for the crownógreat sautÈed, pickled, or in cooked vegetable dishes.
You can also eat dandelion flowers, or use them to make wine. Collect them in a sunny meadow, just before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom. Some continue to flower right into the fall. Use only the flowerís yellow parts. The green sepals at the flowerís base are bitter.
The flowers add color, texture, and an unusual bittersweet flavor to salads. You can also saute them, dip them in batter and fry them into fritters, or steam them with other vegetables. They have a meaty texture that contrasts with other lighter vegetables in a stir-fry dish or a casserole. A Japanese friend makes exceptionally delicious traditional dandelion flower pickles, using vinegar and spices.
The taproot is edible all year, but is best from late fall to early spring. Use it as a cooked vegetable, especially in soups. Although not as tasty as many other wild root vegetables, Itís not bad. I remember finding large dandelions with huge roots growing on the bottom of a grassy hillside. They were only mildy bitter, so I threw them into a potato stock. With the added scallions, tofu, ginger, carrots and miso, this became an excellent Japanese miso soup.
Pre-boiling and changing the water, or long, slow simmering mellows this root. Sweet vegetables best complement dandelion roots. Sauteing the roots in olive oil also improves them, creating a robust flavor. A little Tamari soy sauce and onions complete this unusual vegetable side dish.
The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances.
Dandelion root is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies. The specific name, officinale, means that It's used medicinally. The decoction is a traditional tonic. Itís supposed to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct, and helps get rid of gall stones. This is due to its taraxacin. Itís good for chronic hepatitis, it reduces liver swelling and jaundice, and it helps indigestion caused by insufficient bile. Don't use it with irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation.
The modern French name for this plant is pissenlit (lit means bed) because the root and leaf tea act on the kidneys as a gentle diuretic, improving the way they cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. Unlike pharmaceuticals diuretics, this doesn't leach potassium, a vital mineral, from the body. Improved general health and clear skin result from improved kidney function. One man I spoke to even claims he avoided surgery for urinary stones by using dandelion root tea alone.
Dandelions are also good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Itís recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people. Anyone who's a victim of excessive fat, white flour, and concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea.
Dandelion rootís inulin is a sugar that doesn't elicit the rapid production of insulin, as refined sugars do. It helps mature-onset diabetes, and I used it as part of a holistic regime for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Dandelion leaf infusion also good at dinner time. Its bitter elements encourage the production of proper levels of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. All the digestive glands and organs respond to this herbís stimulation. Even after the plant gets bitter, a strong infusion, is rich in vitamins and minerals, and helps people who are run-down. Even at its most bitter (Taraxacum come from Arabic and Persian, meaning "bitter herb"), it never becomes intolerably so, like golden seal and gentian.
The leafís white, milky sap removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses, and sores, and soothes bee stings and blisters.
Unlike most other seeds, dandelionsí can germinate without long periods of dormancy. To further increase reproductive efficiency, the plant has given up sex: The seeds can develop without cross-fertilization, so a flower can fertilize itself. This lets it foil the gardener by dispersing seeds as early as the day after the flower opens.
Burdock root, also known as gobo or "Poor-man's potatoes", is an important food in Japan known for it's many healing properties. Traditionally, burdock root was used in Europe, India and China to treat respiratory disorders, abscesses, joint pain, urinary problems and to overcome serious health challenges by stimulating cellular regeneration, detoxification and cleansing. The German Pharmacopoeia lists this herbal drug for treating gastrointestinal complaints, as well as joint and bone conditions. The tea is also considered to be a traditional blood purifier and diuretic. Up to seventy-five percent of the root is made up of complex carbohydrates known as fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), including 27-45% inulin. Based on clinical studies, intake of FOS significantly increases beneficial bifidobacteria within the gastrointestinal tract and eliminates bacterial pathogens. This ultimately stimulates the immune system and effectively suppresses abnormal cell growth. The high levels of FOS in burdock root and its water extract also help to keep blood sugar levels constant and reduce hyperglycemia. Burdock root and its tea also contain at least five powerful flavonoid-type antioxidants that are more powerful antioxidants than vitamin C. Based on many studies with animals exposed to toxic chemicals, the tea very effectively protects the body against cellular damage and abnormal growths. The tea also has powerful anti-inflammatory activity based on studies and reduces liver damage from toxic chemicals. As a mildly bitter-tasting herb, it increases saliva and bile secretion, which aids digestion and cleanses the liver. These qualities of burdock root tea support proper hormone balances within the body and this may explain its traditional use for treating acne, eczema, endometriosis, fibroids and psoriasis. Burdock root tea can also be applied externally for treating skin conditions.
"It’s no mistake that an animal noted for its nose has become wine’s mascot. In California, that nose is being put to use to sniff out disease in the vines. Vintners donated $33,000 to a project to train golden retrievers to sniff out and identify the vine mealybug, which can contaminate grape clusters with larvae and egg sacs, killing the vine itself within five years. The dogs are being trained to detect the pest early by smelling out its sex pheromones; once trained, they are expected to bark when they encounter the smell in the vineyards.
Dogs aren’t the only animals helping out in the vineyards, though. As I mentioned before, winegrowers in California and New Zealand are using falcons and other predatory birds to protect their grapes from other birds such as starlings, which like to eat grapes. The more traditional alternatives include expensive netting over the vines, visual repellents (scarecrows, of a sort) that startle invasive birds, or even loud noises or recordings of birds in distress. Using falcons is a natural, organic approach, especially in Marlborough’s case, where the birds themselves need the help to repopulate.
In California Getty Pollard’s company B-1RD has developed the Vineyard Falcon Crop Protection program, which uses trained falcons. The falcons don’t hunt down and kill starlings in the vineyards; their very presence is enough to discourage the starlings from swooping down and landing for a meal. The falcons got their first test at Gallo’s Two Rock Vineyard in Sonoma in 2004; Dennis Devitt, the winegrowing manager, considered them very effective and successful.
Other animals can contribute as well. Some of the biodynamic vineyards in Alsace are grazed by sheep, controlling the cover crop and fertilizing at the same time. Many sheep also roam the vineyards of New Zealand; some growers let them remain there during the growing season, when they nibble at the vines’ leaves, thereby trimming back the canopy and exposing the grapes to direct sunlight. Biodynamic theory holds that monocultural farms – farms with only one crop – are naturally imbalanced; the mixture of different crops and animals makes a better, healthier ecosystem. Grazing sheep and horse-driven plows help redress the imbalance (The horse-driven plow reduces compaction of the soil.)."
Today we feature an summary of a chapter from the book "Biological Invasion" that poses an interesting question about a lesser known invasive species . . .
Rosie Hails and Tracey Timms-Wilson
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Pathogen Population Ecology, OX1 3SR, Oxford, UK
The release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a controversial subject. Some perceive it to be the single most important development in biology since the discovery of natural selection. Others are concerned that the movement of genes with no reference to natural species boundaries could pose new ecological risks. One conjectural risk is that transgenes will either cause the host species to become invasive or they will escape from the original host species and cause other species to become invasive. Gene flow between species occurs naturally, although the frequency varies within and across kingdoms. Such gene flow is responsible for creating new combinations of genes, with the potential for introgression or speciation. Hybridisation has been proposed as a stimulus for the evolution of invasiveness in plants (Ellstrand and Schierenbeck 2000), suggesting that new combinations can create genotypes with different, and perhaps surprising ecological behaviours. Do transgenes pose particular risks in this respect? Is it possible to predict the probability that transgenes will cause invasiveness in recipient organisms?
Hog Wild Look out, Vermont — feral pigs are on the loose BY JON MARGOLIS
for original article see: http://www.7dvt.com/2010hog-wild
Ah, Vermont, where one is rarely far from nature and its wildlife: the hermit thrush and the brook trout, the moose and the mink, the wild pig and the white-tailed deer, the…
Wait a minute.
Wild pig? As in boars?
Yup, they’re here. Not many of them, not everywhere, and not a breeding population. Not yet.
But Vermont is now one of 44 states in which at least a few feral pigs live, according to the generally recognized authority on the subject, John J. Mayer Jr. A research scientist and manager at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., he says the nation could be on the verge of a “pig bomb” as the voracious animals expand their range. Boars have a habit of churning up farms and gardens and devouring every lamb, calf or kitten they can find.
According to Mayer, wild pigs will eat almost anything, animal or vegetable. They don’t actually eat mineral, but so voracious are they that, when thirsty, they’ll dig up a yard to get to its underground sprinkler system and chew right through the PVC pipe.
Wild pigs also damage trout fisheries. By rooting, eating and excreting along riverbanks, they pollute the water, and by removing vegetation, they cause erosion that covers trout redds (spawning areas) with silt.
But don’t panic, at least not yet. First of all, Vermont’s feral pigs are probably not full-fledged boars (Sus scrofa) but some combination of boar and regular old pig (Sus domestica), visible on the farm and edible on the plate.
Furthermore, wild pigs do not routinely attack humans. Unless the human is walking his or her dog. Wild pigs do routinely attack dogs.
Boars are not native to Vermont. Whence do they come? New Hampshire. The animals are not native to that state, either, but they were imported from Germany more than 100 years ago to be hunted in Corbin Park. Austin Corbin, founder of the Long Island Rail Road, created the roughly 20,000-acre fenced impoundment in 1886.
The fence is supposedly boar proof. It is not, however, people proof, and in and around Cornish and Croydon, about eight miles east of Windsor County, Vt., some of the locals — perhaps unhappy about being excluded from all that land while millionaires paid thousands for exotic hunts — cut holes in the fence. Some are so big, Mayer says, “You could drive a truck through.”
It is through those gaps, he notes, that several wild hogs have escaped and swum across the Connecticut, probably making landfall somewhere between Windsor and Hartland.
Boars reside in a similar, if smaller, impoundment in Vermont, Wild Hill Preserve in Fairlee, where either the fences are stronger or the neighbors are calmer, and there have been no reports of porcine getaways.
Right now, Mayer estimates, there are fewer than 100 feral pigs in Vermont, and the weather may prevent them from ever establishing themselves here. “Piglets may not be able to survive a cold winter,” he suggests.
But this past winter was mild, and there are established boar populations in Michigan and four western Canadian provinces, which are as cold as if not colder than Vermont. What can be done if a breeding population does establish itself? Basically, nothing, Mayer says. Extirpation is all but impossible.
Besides, it’s likely that hunters, a potent lobby in Montpelier, would fight extirpation efforts. They want enough boars to survive to be hunted. Among other consequences, then, a wild boar population could create a long-term political squabble pitting gardeners, anglers, farmers, hikers and environmentalists against hunters.
It's time to start gardening here in Vermont, and although my indoor starts were not as successful as I might have liked, there is still hope for a bountiful garden, much of which is already growing from a combination of wild weeds being left fallow for a year, reseeding annuals from the garden in years passed and surprise perennials. I have included a rough draft guide to how I might lay out some of this garden after some double digging. As this is my first season in this garden plot (and Vermont in general), I don't quite know what to expect. However, I am familiar with the three sisters, and I happen to have some corn bean and squash seeds laying around, so if you have never heard of this ancient polyculture, practiced by many indigenous groups in the Americas, please read on in this excerpt from Toby Hemmenways book, Gaia's Garden, from Chealsea Green Publishing . . .
Nature binds plants into interdependent communities and associations. Indigenous people, too, have crafted plant combinations that weave synergies among species. In the past two decades, ecological designers also have blended plants into communities that contain partnerships. Permaculturists call these imitations of natural associations guilds.* Formally defined, a guild is a group of plants and animals harmoniously interwoven into a pattern of mutual support, often centered around one major species, that benefits humans while creating habitat.
Guilds are one way to bridge the broad gap between conventional vegetable gardens and wildlife gardens by creating plant communities that act and feel like natural landscapes but that include humans in their webwork. Vegetable gardens benefit only humans, while wildlife or natural gardens specifically exclude people from their ecological patterns.
Gardens for wildlife are immensely valuable, but they are only a partial answer to habitat loss. As I’ve said before, if we ignore the material needs of humans in our urban and suburban landscapes, we’re doomed to continue our voracious consumption of wild land for factory farms and tree plantations. Ecological gardens, using guilds and the other tools described in this book, help our developed land to blossom into nourishing places for both humans and wildlife.
The Three Sisters
Let’s begin our exploration of guilds with a very simple example that illustrates some essential principles. Then we can proceed to more complex guilds—ones that go beyond vegetables.
Familiar to many gardeners is the Native American triad of corn, beans, and squash, a combination often called the Three Sisters. The trio qualifies as a guild because each of these plants supports and benefits the others. The beans draw nitrogen from the air and, via symbiotic bacteria, convert the nitrogen to plant-available form, boosting the growth of all three vegetables. The cornstalks form a trellis for the bean vines to climb. The rambling squash, with its broad leaves, forms a living parasol that densely covers the ground, inhibiting weeds and keeping the soil cool and moist. Further cementing this trio together comes the news from scientists that the roots of the corn ooze specific sugars that are the perfect nourishment for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Together, the Three Sisters produce more food, with less water and fertilizer, than a similar area planted to any one of these three crops in isolation. Jane Mt. Pleasant, an agronomist at Cornell University who has blended her Iroquois heritage with her research, has shown that total yields of this guild, measured in calories, are about 20 percent higher than comparable yields of corn grown alone in an equal-sized plot.
Look at how many interconnections this guild bears. Beans furnish nitrogenous fertility for themselves, the corn, and the squash; squash shades soil for the benefit of all three; corn feeds the bean-hugging bacterial nodules and creates a trellis for the beans. Three plants, weaving at least eight connections. The Three Sisters guild is a perfect place to begin creating a richly connected garden. Growing the Three Sisters Guild
Mark out a series of planting mounds about three feet apart, a couple of inches high, and a foot or so in diameter. (To calculate how many mounds you need, figure that you’ll get about four or five ears of corn per hole.) Then poke three or four kernels of corn into each mound. Your favorite sweet corn variety will do, although Native Americans developed shorter, multi-stalked cultivars specifically for this guild, such as Black Aztec, Hopi White, or Tarahumara sweet corn, so you might consider a similar many-stalked variety. When the corn sprouts, start mounding the soil up around the young stalks. Don’t cover the sprouts; just build up earth around the base. These mounds, by exposing soil to the air and sun, will warm the sprouts, speeding their growth. The mounds also improve drainage. Don’t thin the corn—you want two or three stalks per mound, hence the greater-than-usual distance between mounds.
About two weeks after planting the corn, select some pole beans, rather than a bush variety. Common pole bean varieties such as Blue Lake work well enough, although I’ve been told that very vigorous hybrid pole beans clambering up skinny hybrid corn stalks can pull the spindly corn down. Again, old-style varieties used traditionally in the Three Sisters work best. These include less-vigorous climbers such as Four Corners Gold and Hopi Light Yellow. But plants are forgiving, and most varieties will do well enough.
If you can, coat the bean seeds with a legume inoculant specific for beans (available from many seed suppliers). This ensures that the all-important nitrogen-fixing bacteria will find a happy home among the bean roots. Plant two or three bean seeds near the edges of each corn mound.
At the same time you start the beans, plant squash or pumpkins between each mound. Don’t use zucchini, as their tall stems will push the corn aside. Grow a vining squash variety that will sprawl over the soil.
Aside from these trio-specific instructions, grow the Three Sisters by following the cultural guidelines on each vegetable’s seed packet. After harvest, leave the stalks, vines, and other organic debris on the ground to compost in place. This returns some of the extracted fertility to the soil and protects the ground from erosion. Although much of the bacterially fixed nitrogen will be concentrated into the protein-rich bean pods, plenty will remain in the vines and roots, ready to go back to the earth.
Las Sombras Biological Preserve, Box 337, La Honda, CA
"Alien invaders" are a hot topic. In his book "Alien Invasion" Robert Devine vilifies botanic gardens- Quote:
"Kanapaha, like almost all botanic gardens, is loaded with invasive exotics…By helping fuel the alien invasion, botanical gardens give legitimacy to the dangerous status quo… most botanic gardens are oblivious to the issue of invasive species…"
He claims that you have "a reluctance to discontinue sales of exotic plants that have been big moneymakers" for botanic gardens (Devine 1998:206-208).
Unfortunately, invasion biology, with its irrational fear of the movement of species, is a century out of step with ecological science.
Natural dispersal has been frequent, long-distance, and beneficial (Section Title Slide) (Axelrod 1959; Clark 1988; Clark et al. 1989; Crow et al. 1988; Darlington 1957; Darwin 1948; Davis 1983; Davis 1988; Elias 1994; Elliott-Fisk 1988; Gleason & Cronquist 1964; Kuc 1995; Menard 1974; Munz & Keck 1959; Neill 1969; Orban 1995; Paus 1995; Peglar et al. 1989; Simpson 1942; Thornton 1971). Dispersal is essential to maintaining biodiversity, and has been a powerful driving force of evolution (1).
(Text Slide) Contrary to the antiquated and discredited ecology on which invasion biology rests, natural biota are not coevolved, tightly-integrated, perfectly balanced systems. (Text Slide) All evidence from modern ecology and paleobiology indicates that current species assemblages are recent, non-coevolved aggregations, that species disperse independently, and species interactions form and dissolve readily (Davis 1983; Kellman 1980; Lawton 1998). (Text Slide) All extant species assemblages are resilient and are accustomed to integrating new members (Vermeij 1991). The fossil record is clear (Text Slide) - invasion increases biodiversity (2), and the experimental record indicates that the greater the rate of invasion, the higher the diversity of the resulting assemblages (Robinson & Edgemon 1988). As Turner (1996) stated, "life evolves at the edge of chaos, the area of maximum vitality and change."
(Text Slide) Invasion is identical to entirely natural processes - note this dense, invading monoculture (Photo Slide) - this is our native bracken fern [Pteridium aquilinum] (3). No scientific model can distinguish this from an "alien" invasion. (Text Slide) Again and again, we find "invaders" to be disturbance indicators only, symptoms of industrial abuse of the land (4), integrating ecologically, and with many beneficial effects that are carefully ignored by those promoting a "crisis" (Colwell & Dodd 1995; Essink & Dekker 2000; Francour et al. 1995; Holland et al. 1995; Kuuispalo et al. 1995; Marshall 1991; Peles et al. 1995; Sagoff 1999; Stewart & Samways 1998).
(Text Slide) The data indicate that in all cases, including even the oceanic islands, anthropogenic dispersal has increased biological diversity (Baskin et al. 1995; Harrison 1999; Harty 1993; Hickman 1993; Klick et al. 1989; Moulton & Pimm 1986; Simberloff 1986) (5). The alpha diversity of species counts has risen, beta and gamma diversity have increased, and phylogenetic omega diversity has risen. Novel assemblages have formed, new functional and structural elements have been added to landscapes, and entirely new ecological interactions have arisen.
Anthropogenic dispersal is an essential conservation strategy - at-risk clades need to be naturalized in new regions to prevent extinction, and hyperdiverse preserves established (Theodoropoulos 1993, 1999). There are no theoretical limits to diversity (Cornell & Lawton 1992).
Raspberries are a widespread group of plants in the rose family that grow as perennials in all the lower 48 states and Alaska except the states of the south along the gulf coast between Texas to Florida. In colder areas, the canes often die back to the root completely to overwinter. Nevertheless, they produce canes every year that flower and bear fruit on secondary branches when the canes are two years old. There is some debate as to whether the species found in North America differs from it's European and Asian counterparts. Many varieties in cultivation are hybrids of the European (Rubus idaeus) and the North America variety (Rubus strigosus). Vermont is noted for it's diversity of raspberry species in particular. It is possible that the raspberries in Bear Swamp are a variety of species and could include Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentals), purple raspberries (Rubus odorous), European (Rubus ideas), North American Raspberries (Rubus strigosus) or a rare wild hybrid of Black and Red Raspberries known unofficially and with adulation as (Rubus Neglectus). They play an important ecological role in the wild as browse for an number of fauna including multiple species of bears, deer, birds and smaller mammals such as raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, skunks, chipmunks and host insects and larve in the short lived Raspberry season of the early summer.
Raspberries play an important role as a flower crop for domestic and wild bees. Humans have also found the raspberry to be a highly lucrative and delicious food crop, sold fresh, dried, frozen and prepared in jams, they are also made into liqueurs and dyes. Russia is the world's top producer, harvesting 95,000 tons in the 2003 - 2004 season, while Serbia grew 79,000 tons and the United States sold 48,000 tons (FAO). For centuries, humans have also used the leaves of Raspberries to make teas that are widely used by women during pregnancy (KA Petrie 2000). There is evidence to support that the fruits have numerous beneficial health properties, including a high count of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) and posses nearly twice the amount of antioxidants as apples (Wu X 2004). However, this source of information has been produced by a highly monetized and politicized body of private enterprises and government organizations, and may be of questionable quality or misleading. They have been hybridized into countless varieties to suit a wide range of climatic conditions. Raspberries have been considered invasive as they can be spread in numerous ways, including propagation by bird droppings, human cultivation in the form of transplanting dormant canes, plug plants produced from tissue culture, and from their own form of reproduction, suckers, technically referred to as basal shoots that can spread in gardens if they are not maintained.
Rejuvenating the Bear Swamp Trails. Troy Janusz. Sterling College ASRP. 2008
The Boreal Ecosystem. James A. Larsen. Academic Press. 1980
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Food Fact. 2003
Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. KA Petrie, MR Peck. Elsevier. 2000
Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont. Thompson EH, Sorenson ER. The Nature Conservancy and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2005
Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL. Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center and Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2004
From a dog's point of view, your backyard is a smorgasbord. Every dog I've known has enjoyed finding new edible foodlike substances. To make your garden safe for your dog to explore, you can eliminate the most obvious dangers.
In the long run, it's more effective to fence off selected areas of the garden than to cage the dog. Bear in mind that dogs are pack animals who want to be wherever their people are, not isolated in a far corner or left alone for too long.
Most dog owners know chocolate is toxic to dogs, but they may not realize they need to avoid using cocoa mulch. Grapes (and raisins) are also toxic to dogs, so keep dogs out of the vineyard. Emergency vets point to snail bait (metaldehyde) and rat bait, as well as antifreeze, as the most dangerous household poisons for dogs. Snail bait based on iron phosphate, such as Sluggo, is nontoxic to dogs and birds.
Another hazard is fertilizers, whether in open bags or freshly added to the garden. Dogs are irresistibly attracted to the odor of manures and organic amendments, but they can get diarrhea or worse when they eat some. In my experience, it doesn't help to bury the organics a few inches deep or mix them with soil. Alfalfa meal is a dog's idea of a special treat. With access to the garden within a day or so after amendments have been added, I've known a dog who feasted on the whole shebang, including mulch, lava rock, and any chemicals that were used (the proof came out over the next couple days).
If you can't keep your dog out of the garden for a couple days, use compost tea as a liquid fertilizer. Once it's added to soil, its odor is less likely to attract dogs. You can find recipes for either fermented or aerated compost teas.
Dogs lick and taste everything, so if you use any pesticides, your dog will get a dose. Eliminating all pesticides will make your garden bird-friendly as well as dog-friendly. You need a variety of insects to attract birds. Putting birds in charge of controlling insects saves you money, improves your soundscape, is more sustainable, and adds entertainment value.
The long list of poisonous plants includes oleander (don't use the twigs as chew toys) and lily bulbs (for dogs who like to dig). If you're putting in a new landscape or have a new puppy, consult a handbook of poisonous plants to figure out which ones are worth the (usually minor) risk. But remember that pesticides are a far greater hazard and toxic at smaller dosages.
My idea of a dog-friendly garden doesn't include agaves with needle-sharp leaves or grasses with sharp awns that can be inhaled or embedded between toes (weedy foxtails are the biggest offenders; native needlegrasses may pose a small risk). But dogs can peacefully coexist with prickly bird-sheltering plants such as barberries or gooseberries, and even thorny roses, in a well-designed garden.
The key to having a nice garden and a happy dog is training. Just as you have to teach your dog how to behave indoors, you have to establish the ground rules outdoors. Some dogs catch on right away; others need consistent reminders.
A dog-friendly garden has play space, access to drinking water, a designated "bathroom" area, and rules about where the dog is allowed. Play space can be a small area for tug of war, a big meadow for retrieving a frisbee or ball, or running paths that include dog-sculpted tunnels in the shrubbery. To make cleanup easier, train your dog to use an unplanted mulched area for elimination. You can even buy or build a system for composting pet waste.
Each dog is different. Observe your dog to discover her favorite sun/shade napping places, if she likes to dig or likes water, if she likes to run the fence lines or sit by the gate to watch the world go by, or has a favorite squirrel-watching post. Provide more of what the dog likes so that when unsupervised, the dog will respect your garden.
If your dog's idea of a good time is digging, you can provide a sand pit and bury dog toys in it, instead of patching up your garden beds. I've discouraged infrequent diggers by covering the soil with mulch.
If your dog overindulges in fallen apples or picks tomatoes on his own, you may need to keep up with harvesting or fence off the edibles.
Tanya Kucak has lived with doberman pinschers, a cockerpoo, a golden retriever, a saluki, a beagle, and a rat terrier (not all at the same time!).
Humans and countless other migratory animals have traveled long distances, and often transported other species within their migratory movements as they expand their territory. In evolutionary biology, species recede and advance in pulsing patterns as climatic changes occur more rapidly than their ability to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. Natural storm events such as hurricanes and floods have been known to redistribute species thousands of miles, often as seeds and spores surviving in water. As we approach the sixth mass extinction of planet earth, and the dispersal of exotic species have been primarily attributed primarily to anthropogenic disturbances, is it logical to label certain highly adaptable species as “invasive”, “noxious” or “alien” when they may be the best suited for survival in some areas? The use of the term invasive species was first coined by Charles Elton in 1953. Elton was highly influenced by a fellow Oxford student, Alexander Carr Saunders, secretary of the Eugenics Education Society, which promoted the study and practice of selective breeding in humans. Eugenics also suggested pseudo-scientific notions of racial and ethnic superiority and was crucial to Nazi scientists who justified genocide and human experimentation through this subject. Much of this prejudiced mentality towards living organisms migrated into the sub discipline of invasion biology. Terms such as genetic pollution, which are still used today, have the heritage of a hate-based philosophy, but recently has come to be associated with Genetically Modified Organisms and their spread into organic crops and wildlands and may pose the greatest threat of any “invasive species”. This sub discipline is controversial within ecology and has far reaching ecological and economic results. Many of the species responsible for the highest loss of diversity, and covering the largest areas of earth with monocultures are factory farms and monoculture crops, most notably, corn, soy and wheat have displaced more native speies than any other organism. Some figures suggest that invasive species cost Americans $136 billion annually, about a third of which comes from herbicide use in conventional agriculture and raises the price of food. In Canada alone the herbicide industry grossed over 26 billion in 2004. Chemical corporations stand to lose billions if a more relaxed stance is taken towards invasive species, and governmental eradication programs could loose funding and lay off staff. Recently there has been some research into the possible benefits of of some introduced species. Beneficial relationships between introduced species and native have often been overlooked and understated. They may provide forage for both native and domesticated animals, cover exposed soils preventing erosion or remove toxins and algae from human sources of pollution.