Monday, May 9, 2016

#phenology "Rogue violets"

For reasons that aren't clear to me, our local patch of woods has no native wildflowers. A mile down the road, trillium are starting to bloom. In the next county north, great patches of roadsides are full of Spring ephemerals. Here, we have had only patchy grass spread among the trees, and dandelions along the roadsides, until this year. Last week I shared with my Better Half my discovery of the "pretty blue wildflowers" that had bloomed along a short stretch of our road this year. She informed me they were "rogue violets" that had spread somehow from our front yard flower garden. This series of events has me all the more interested in the question of finding a lexicology of invasive species.

roadside wildflowers
Photo by J. Harrington

As I've read elsewhere, there are a number of non-native or alien species that aren't considered invasive. But, the definitions and the rest of the federal government's white paper are, in my opinion, heavily anthropomorphic. For example, beaver are indigenous to large parts of North America but are also controlled when their dams cause problems for people. we don't call them invasive. I haven't seen, yet, a clear distinction of whether the "economic harm" referred to in some writings does or does not include the cost of control, which, presumably, is a benefit, not a harm, to those who earn their living attempting to control invasive species or troublesome natives. This is likely to get more interesting as climate change alters habitats and events like the Fort McMurray wildfire create large areas of disturbed habitat.

roadside "rogue" violets
Photo by J. Harrington

I'm not suggesting that invasive species are good. I am suggesting that we need to place more emphasis on the ecological niches filled by invasive species and any species they're presumed to displace. I'm not sure we'll ever have enough money and inspectors and removal specialists to successfully manage who gets to live where on the whole planet or the whole continent, nor do I believe we have the knowledge or wisdom to do so beneficially, even if we had the resources. If you haven't recently, read or watch The Sorcerer's Apprentice to get a feel for my concerns about our management capabilities. I suspect it might not be too difficult to find a number of folks who would argue that one of the most harmful alien species to invade North America is the W.A.S.P., followed by Kentucky Blue Grass.

The Wooden Overcoat


By Rick Barot


It turns out there’s a difference between a detail
and an image. If the dandelion on the sidewalk is
mere detail, the dandelion inked on a friend’s bicep
is an image because it moves when her body does,

even when a shirt covers the little thorny black sun
on a thin stalk. The same way that the bar code
on the back of another friend’s neck is just a detail,
until you hear that the row of numbers underneath

are the numbers his grandfather got on his arm
in a camp in Poland. Then it’s an image, something
activated in the reader’s senses beyond mere fact.
I know the difference doesn’t matter, except in poetry,

where a coffin is just another coffin until someone
at a funeral calls it a wooden overcoat, an image
so heavy and warm at the same time that you forget
it’s about death. At my uncle’s funeral, the coffin

was so beautiful it was like the chandelier lighting
the room where treaties are signed. It made me think
of how loved he was. It made me think of Shoshone
funerals, where everything the dead person owned

was put into a bonfire, even the horse. In that last
sentence, is the horse a detail or an image? I don’t
really know. In my mind, a horse is never anywhere
near a fire, and a detail is as luminous as an image.

The trumpet vine on the sagging fence. The clothes
in the fire. And each tattoo that I touch on your back:
the three-part illustration of how to use chopsticks,
the four-leaf clover, the clock face stopped at 12:05.


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