Naturewatch: We're being invaded by aliens!


The plural for alien still reminds me of invaders from space wanting to take over our planet, even though for many years now I have promoted the eradication of earth-born aliens -- mostly plants.

While looking through recent posts on Facebook I came across one by Scott Harrington, a landscaper who operates his business out of Lenox, and posted a photograph of bittersweet "fruits," that spectacular as they are, can be considered as invasive and destructive as a fleet of off-worlders.

His comments accompanying the photo, put me at ease, "Invasive Plant Alert ... if you see this to dig it out...can call me for assistance...and ID..." Of course, we assume Mr. Harrington refers to plants growing on your own property.

The list of invasive or alien plant life invading our beautiful Northeast are many. Some trees and shrubs, like autumn olive, winged-euonymus, Norway maple, Japanese barberry, Amur and Morrow's honeysuckle, and black locust, were once best sellers in nurseries; all having some redeeming features that, unfortunately, are heavily outweighed by the damage they do.

I can recall selling autumn olive myself in the late 1960s. It was promoted by the USDA as a soil stabilizing, wildlife feeding, attractive windbreak. Today, along many of our highways, it has produced "monocultures," the ecologist's term for patches of just one species, eliminating the wide variety of native species, so necessary for balanced habitat.

Another all-too-common plant today, once promoted by the USDA as a living fence when planted in rows that produced lovely flowers and an abundant crop of food for wildlife, is multiflora rose. Millions of plants were given free to farmers, and soon birds were spreading its seeds far and wide. Instead of continuing to give away millions of wild rose plants, millions of dollars are spent to eradicate it.

Late hummingbirds?

I received an email from Marilyn in North Adams, who had a hummingbird as late as Oct. 29 at her hummingbird feeder, and wrote: We've continued to see hummingbirds in our yard in North Adams (not daily, but I saw one Oct. 29) and so I've left my feeder up thinking that they may be migrating from the north. Now I'm concerned that maybe that was the wrong thing to do -- should I take it down?

My answer then was no; now it is yes, unless someone is receiving visits from one or more of these tiny jewels. If readers have kept note of the last hummingbird seen this fall, I would appreciate an email.

Sounds interesting:

A Berkshire Natural Resource Council outing, Saturday, Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. to noon.

Come enjoy a New Marlborough Land Preservation Trust property and see some beautiful views in Thousand Acre Swamp. We will then cross into Cookson State Forest to see the remains of an old mill. This is an easy hike with very little elevation gain, suitable for all abilities and ages. Distance: 3 miles; No charge. For more information, phone 413-499-0596 or email:


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