Book Report: Unnatural Texas?

Hey from Austin! You didn’t think my holiday was all traipsing through the mosquito fields and staring at the ocean, did you? Of course not. I also read a lot. Admittedly, I read a few magazines, but I got deeply into this book, which I got at the Texas Master Naturalist Conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s whole title is Unnatural Texas? The Invasive Species Dilemma, and it was written by Robin W. Doughty and Matt Warnock Turner.

The authors didn’t want to put “invasive” in the first part of the title, because, as they frequently point out, none of the plants and animals they talk about actually invaded in the first place; someone brought them to this continent. In fact, the only animal who’s actually “invaded” that they talked about is the nine-banded armadillo, who’s been going farther and farther northward, on its own, for the past couple of hundred years. (I would add to this list the caracara/Mexican eagle and a couple of other birds that are coming northward since it’s getting warmer).

This dude invaded our neighborhood all on their own.

I really enjoyed learning how some of the plants I’d known about my whole life showed up, and how hard people have worked to get rid of them. I feel sort of bad, as an aquarium keeper in the 1960s (with Mom), who may have contributed to the influx of hydrilla and water hyacinth to our lakes and waterways. I remember the invasion of the beautiful purple flowers, and witnessed first hand how quickly they grow. My dad had a goldfish pond in our back yard, and put the floating plants in it. Every month or so, he’d have to cull at least half of them. It’s taken years to get the under control, thanks to importing an insect that slows them down.

The book is organized into chapters about different birds (English sparrows and starlings), animals (feral hogs, feral cats, and imported exotics like fallow deer), and more aquatic life like zebra mussels and lion fish). The authors are always careful to point out the reasons why people brought these exotics to the US, which I appreciate.

Zebra mussel shells along the shore of Lady Bird Lake. Sigh.

An important point they make is that a plant or animal is not invasive just because it’s imported. For example, the Chinese tallow tree was a very popular tree in cities for providing shade and beauty. They only became a problem years after they were introduced, when they started to take over the coast around Houston.

Chinese tallow tree, sprouting in Hilton Head.

Another thing I learned is that most introduced plants and animals do not become invasive, since the conditions where they are placed aren’t right. Invasives are introduced somewhere that’s right for them climate-wise and where there’s not something to control them. Interestingly, many of these, especially the plants, aren’t a problem where they are native, because there are also controls there. Plants usually have insects or diseases that keep them in check, but those don’t travel along with them when they invade.

But, then, why not import the controllers? Well, one thing the researchers have learned is not to randomly bring one thing in to control another (like the grass carp they brought in to control hydrilla in Lake Travis here in Austin, which they had make sure were sterile).

I guess it’s clear that invasive species are really hard to deal with and there are no clear answers. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I’m glad current Texas biologists and researchers aren’t out trying to “improve” this state and the country by bringing in beloved items from other places. Darn those English sparrows.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

2 thoughts on “Book Report: Unnatural Texas?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Crissi McDonald

Heartline Horse Training

sara annon

seeking the middle path

Tonya's Tall Tales

My life with horses, bunnies, chickens, ducks, and cows.

rfljenksy - Practicing Simplicity

Legendary Wining and Dining World Tour.

The Backyard Horse Blog

All about keeping horses at home

Hazel's Animal Adventures

My life on the ranch.

Diary Of The Wests

The West Household Runs Of Love And Laughter

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

365 Knit Socks

I knit, crochet, and dye yarn

recoveringpornaddictcom.wordpress.com/

Coach, author and educator

The daily addict

The daily life of an addict in recovery

Just Vee

A regular gal who likes to stop and smell the flowers.

Happy Heidi's Happenings

My life in the country.

BrownesPups

A family of dog lovers, owners & breeders since 2015

The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

panic-stricken mountain adventuring!

Something Over Tea

Scribbles from my notebook

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Heccateisis's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Upstate Gardener

The Upstate Gardening blog with Gardening Information, Recipies, Home Improvement Ideas, and Crafts Projects to make your life more beautiful and healthy.

Read, Learn, Live

Look closely around and about you, and you will see all forms of beauty.

Nature And Photography

Bring Nature Into Life

AT PATHO

no streetlights, just star light

Words and Stitches

woolgathering at its best

The Grief Reality

Normalising the conversation about Grief.

iRoseStudios.com

Art Studio Dumfriesshire

The Creative Pixie

eat up some crafty goodness with this creative mama

Writings of a Furious Woman

My thoughts, sentiments, and scribbles on womanhood

Paws Bark

Dogs Leave Paw Print in your Heart

Yeshua's Child Art

Art that Expresses the Heart

Chicken Coop Plans

Build Your Chicken a Home

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Cathartic Tendencies

motivational posts, rants, and stories!

TotallyTexasGifts.com

Featuring Fine Arts & Crafts created and sold by Texans

Seasons As My Teacher

Truth Written In The Wind

claudiajustsaying

Aging & Attitude

The Tragedy Kween

A boisterous introvert illustrating her way through life.

Zoewiezoe

Where a little insanity goes a long way

%d bloggers like this: