|("Invasive" wildflower display between Cromwell and Alexandra, New Zealand) [All photos by Jan Fahs]|
Like all good conservationists, I like my nature pure. I would just as soon only see native plants in most landscapes (with the minor exception of city gardens and of course vegetable and cereal producing areas to feed us--and I suppose some pastoralism in there too...it's getting more complicated). But what happens when the invasives create gardenesque sweeps worthy of a painter? Can we make exceptions for these?
Proof I was in New Zealand last month (is it last month already? feels like yesterday still the impressions are so bright) and here Jan (whose pictures I'm using throughout this post--mine weren't as good) has caught me in the act: we both took way too many pictures.
Of course, its mostly red valerian (a.k.a. Jupiter's beard: Centranthus ruber) which has naturalized many places on the planet. I have admired this blooming wild in Greece, where it seems to almost always be a chalky pink: here every shade from pure white to deep crimson can be found. Along with California poppies (Eschscholtzia californica) and a goodly number of other Mediterranean introductions. All of them exotics and all of them planted with such cunning and care you'd swear it was a garden.
The environmentalist angel on one shoulder is fuming with anger and indignation: how could such horrible invasives be tolerated? There is another fallen angel, on my other shoulder whispering ("Aaaah, isn't it pretty?"). I have some friends who have only one angel, who can look at this and not suffer some qualms and indecision: if I were given a magic wand, would I "whoosh" away all the invasives and restore exactly what was there prior to European settlement? Or should we go back before the Maoris as well (they must have had an impact too, don't you think?)...and would that restored landscape persist with rabbits, hares, possums and so many other plants that are probably responsible for the success of what you see more than humans by ourselves.
Have I mentioned the lavender you've been seeing is Thymus vulgaris? This was much the commonest weed, growing so thickly that it's harvested by the ton for herbal extracts. There is a minor industry of herbalists who rely on the plant itself, and legions of beekeepers who bring their hives here: how does the thyme on this hill differ from alfalfa in a pasture (or paddock as they say in New Zealand?)...
I believe this is Salvia verbenacea. And there were legions of Mignonette (Reseda luteola, I believe, although only R. alba is listed on the Department of Conservation's weed list) and other fellow travelers here and elsewhere...
Excuse me while I admire this unholy landscape. I guess we may all share a little of the sublime hypocrisy of those pious evangelistic preachers who bellow fiercely on the pulpit, but wallow in sin when parishioners aren't around. A stretch of a comparison, I know!
A last few lingering looks...
Our salvia again...such tracery!
Just a little more red and pink, please!
I'm incorrigible, but you're still looking at it too aren't you?
We wind down with some thymes...
|Scotch broom by the acre (abetted by agricultural practice and logging)|
Everything you see in this picture is exotic: the Eurasian grasses, the broom and the distanct plantation of Monterrey pines: in fact there is barely a stitch of native vegetation anywhere on the eastern quadrant of New Zealand below, say 1000 feet (more or less)... That said, there are a few remarkable reserves throughout the country (even at lower elevations) and a high level of awareness among every New Zealander I met about the ecological issues and challenges they face. I believe the horticulturists especially are extremely self-conscious and have borne the brunt of the pain of the draconian laws meant to prohibit new weeds: any new plant to cultivation in N.Z. must be submitted to a Government process costing tens of thousands of dollars--a very regressive and self defeating example of colossal myopia and ineffectiveness in my opinion. Makes me root for the weeds, frankly!
It may be an ecological menace, but it's beautiful!
New Zealand plantspeople can't obtain the latest Podophyllums from China legally (plants that are never posing a threat to anything but pocketbooks of plantsmen)...but they are free to pave their lawns (and countryside) with invasive Eurasian grasses, and topiaries. I rather liked these in the Southlands!
|I shall quit while I'm sorta ahead...|