Domestication of poison ivy

Gerard Fryer gerard at
Wed Nov 18 14:12:27 EST 1992

In article <BxMIuM.Moq at>, cl27111 at (Christopher  Lindsey) writes:
|> 	This brings up the interesting issue of ethics in gardening.  Is it
|> ethical for people to plant species that may damage native habitats (i.e.
|> kudzu, Purple loosestrife) if they find it attractive?  Is it ethical to
|> plant harmful plants that have the ability to spread off of your own
|> property, such as Poison ivy?

As a resident of a place that has been almost completely overrun by
exotics - Hawaii - I say No!  It is not ethical.  People here plant
lantana (from Malaysia?), maleleuca (= paperbark, from Australia), kiawe
(= mesquite = thorn tree, from Africa), and a whole abundance of other
Gondwana flora such as gum trees.  These things are taking over.  No
plant you might associate with Hawaii - hibiscus, ginger, orchids,
shower trees - got here naturally, with the sole exception of the
coconut.  The local plants - giant thornless raspberries, sandalwood,
and a zillion others whose names you'd never recognise - are all
receding before the more robust intruders and many are extinct.  Stay
at a bed and breakfast on the cool slopes of Haleakala and the oaks and
irises and laburnum will have you swearing you are in England:
delightful, but completely out of place.  The same thing is happening
everywhere.  We are condemning the world to a stultifying homogeneity.
Afghan pines are taking over the desert southwest of the US (and being
plugged by that idiot organization Global Releaf), water hyacinth clogs
streams in the southeastern US, eucalypts march up hillsides in
California, the list is endless.

Years ago there was an organization in England trying to get azaleas
and rhododendrons banned because they were "not British."  Some of the
more militant actually tried to saw down some rhododendrons or spray
them with defoliants (which is appropriate: rhododendron leaves are
packed with toxins which poison the ground for other plants; did you
ever wonder why there is no ground cover in the Rhododendron Dell at
Kew?).  I used to think those people were a bunch of whackos.  Now I'd
like their address (if they still exist), as I'd like to sign up and
start an overseas branch.

|> 	When I worked at the Morton Arboretum, they had a plant (I can't
|> remember the scientific name off the top of my head) called a varnish tree
|> or varnish plant that produced SEVERE dermatitis on contact.  Once it started
|> spreading, they just yanked it out even though it was their only specimen.

Bravo.  Would that more gardeners were so sensible.
Gerard Fryer  (g.fryer at
School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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