liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Kill a Plant to Save the West

Anyone who runs rivers in the western US cannot help but to know about TAMARISK. They're pretty, feathery shrubs that crowd the riverbanks and flower in pink. In fact they are introduced from Asia. Like kudzu they were planted to prevent erosion but then took off. We call them "tammies"--or some call them "toiletwood" because they burn like shit and smell like piss. River runners aren't shy about sculpting the tammies to suit their camping needs.
This article tries to put an optimistic face on the tammie invasion, but far as I know there is no stopping this plant. Groups of people working VERY hard can eradicate it from small areas (Marijka can attest) but eliminating it from the entire west is impossible....or seems that way. They produce gadzillions of seeds that fly in the wind, and have brutally long taproots once established. The one suggestion that I have heard that could possibly work: genetically modify the plant such that seeds are not generated, or are not fertile.

People get all upset about genetic modification of food (want fish genes in your corn?) but I think it is the only technology we have that has a chance of changing the direction of this ecosystem-wide foreign plant invasion.
Tags: genetic engineering, invasive species, plants, river

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