Alien Smackdown of the Day

s8us89ds

As they say, if it's not native, then it's an alien. And many feel that aliens are to put to best use by placing them in the compost pile.

Today I tore down a Bottle Bush tree. It was at least 15' tall, maybe 20 years old. It had those beautiful red blooms. When I looked at the pile of debris, there wasn't a single insect on it. Not a single leaf had been nibbled on. It might as well have been made of plastic. It could be named McTree. I would plant a grove of them if I lived in its native range in Australia or New Zealand. But here in Houston, it's making way for our native Yaupon Holly, which is a staple for the 75% of migratory birds in North America that pass through the Houston area each year.

A month ago, I tore down a Crap Myrtle. Yes, I misspelled that intentionally. The McMyrtle could be the official tree of McDonalds.

I also tore down the last of our Ligustrum Privet bushes. They have the claim to fame of wrecking your sinuses each springtime as well as being untouched by any local insect.

I've been eyeing our last Mock Orange, Ornamental Pear, and Asiatic Jasmine. Their days are numbered. The local birds will rejoice when these aliens come down. I can't tell you how many times I've seen befuddled Cardinals briefly land on the Pear, look around, find nothing of use, and fly away.

It may be another couple years before my yards are 100% native. But currently at 80%, I can see the finish line.

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ncrescue

Philadelphus inodorus is a native mock orange, so check to see which one you have before taking it out.

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TxMarti(8a DFW)

Philadelphus texensis is also a native mock orange. Or are you talking about Pittosporum tobira? I agree with ncrescue; find out which one it is before you pull it out.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Philadelphius ernestii( Canyon Mock-orange) is native to the Hill Country of Texas. There are Mexican mock oranges that except for the international border and not that far from us.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Canyon mockrose is much smaller with shiny dark green leaves. more like a gardenia. It is a good woodland plant.

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s8us89ds

Thanks, I'll ID the Mock Orange and let it stay if it's legit. I have a feeling it might be an alien. It always seems to be bug-free and its plastic-looking leaves pristine. It seems to be an island of lifelessness in a sea of mushy leaf litter and mosquito colonies that is my front yard.

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ncrescue

Ah, TxRanger2, controlling Mother Nature is sometimes of prime importance to a variety of gardeners.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

The big smackdown for me is a future one: I'm planning to cut down the Greenspire linden in the front yard some time this winter after the leaves have dropped. I planted it there about twelve years ago, but the location has always been awkward, too far from the house and too close to the driveway. Its roots are close to the surface and it's always sending branches down to create deeper shade below it. I figure the job will be easier without leaves and also that any tree-sensitive neighbors won't notice what I'm doing until it's too late.

In the meantime (mentioned this on the shovel prune thread in Perennials), I've dug out peonies, yews, Miscanthus, hostas, and more of the fescue lawn.

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s8us89ds

Awesome

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Greenspire linden is easily my least favorite of landscape cultivar lindens. I could list my reasons but that's not what this post is about. Quite simply, your reference to its roots being close to the surface makes it sound like that's an anomaly of some kind. It is not, all trees being much more shallowly-rooted than is commonly perceived by the public. So get rid of the tree if you wish to, but don't hang a false sign on it saying it had some root issue. All trees grow more or less on top of the ground, their roots needing oxygen, just as is true of all plants. Heavier soils promote this tendency but it is present everywhere.

+om

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TxMarti(8a DFW)

My current alien war is with Asian jasmine. We have crossed light sabers and I thought it was down and out, but this rain has energized it.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Hey all you folks getting excited about whacking aliens.... I've got verbascum thapsus (common mullein) and half a dozen different kinds of thistle coming out of my ears at work that all need a good beat down before they flower and go to seed. We even have a volunteer program called "weed Wednesdays" lol. Any takers?

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s8us89ds

Plane fare. :) And lodging expenses, of course. :)

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

You'll have to get in touch with Colorado Parks and Wildlife for that I can't authorize those expenses haha

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Pioneers used that mullein as toilet paper, or so I was told.

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TxMarti(8a DFW)

Those pioneers were a hardy breed.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

So THAT'S why they brought it! I have been wondering why anyone would introduce such an ugly, useless plant.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Maybe that is why it became a nuisance because it was planted everywhere.

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Nell(VA 6)

Congrats! I paid a small fortune to have my honeysuckle and multiflora rose removed this spring and with all our rain, it is as if I had done nothing at all. I'm doing another round of pulling and putting aggressive native ferns in their place. To close to the river to use any sprays.

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ncrescue

Which are the ferns you consider aggressive?

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Nell(VA 6)

hayscented. The arborist said I would be trading one problem for another, but I am so tired of honeysuckle and multiflora, plus the hayscented are native.

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Nell(VA 6)

I also have sensitive ferns in another part of my yard that are considered invasive, though native. I may move some of them.

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s8us89ds

Nature thanks you. Native plants, even if some humans consider them "aggressive", do feed wildlife, insects, microorganisms, and maintain soil chemistry. You're following the right strategy. When natives are firmly established, it's much more difficult for aliens to gain a foothold.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

The concept of calling any plant native to the area in question "invasive" is really an abuse of that term. Many plant species are aggressive. We should be thankful for this, as they rapidly colonize open land, preventing erosion and outcompeteing would-be non-native species. It is the height of folly for anyone who would consider themselves well-versed in the ways of nature to not recognize that very, very often, our best native species are quite capable of colonizing open land. This is, in a nutshell, why the world is green.

White pines, white cedar, tamarack, or what have you colonizing an abandoned farm field? Yes, yes, bring it on, there is no sight in nature more beautiful and encouraging. Ostrich ferns growing in a near-monoculture, in full sunlight no less, in a wet ditch-exquisite beyond compare. So much nonsense getting tacked onto the very real problem of non-native invasive species.

+om

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texasranger2

wiscon, there are exceptions. A bring it on attitude of trees colonizing open land as a good thing in all situations causes me to have a negative reaction. The attitude appears so typical, seems 99.9% of people believe trees are a good thing no matter what. Case Closed. I have been labeled a 'Tree Hater' more than once so I speak from experience of what I run into on the subject. Sometimes I think people can't cope with what looks to them like 'empty spaces'.

There is no sight more depressing in my eyes than to see acres and acres of once beautiful open prairie lost to the aggressive takeover of red cedars, its so aggressive you can literally watch it happening all around here. The pollen negatively affects the air quality, thousands of people now get seriously sick yearly from it and there is a serious threat to safety each summer due to grass fires igniting trees which go up like torches blowing fire embers for miles. They rob the land of water unlike grasses which feed the aquifer and reduce land values. The entire ecosystem is being destroyed as they permanently alter habitat of native birds and animals. The financial cost to remedy the problem is crippling, the cedar take over problem is calculated on #'s of acres of prairie or open land lost per day basis, its that bad. Its serious. The total economic loss in 2014 was $447 million and each year it grows higher.

This is a different part of the country from where you live so I would imagine we are comparing apples and oranges at times. I have come to the conclusion that very few people are able to see beauty in large expanses of 'nothing'. A prairie must be seen up close to see the beauty, maybe thats the reason? I imagine its definitely boring from a car window by most people headed on to funner & more beautiful places.

You will be glad to hear my native smack down planned for this weekend is a large established Russian Sage down there in the Hell Strip by the street. By next week it will be a Salvia greggi.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I remember that you had Russian Sage there. No longer welcome?

Speaking of trees...a few blocks down the street for me is the only other person in the area whose yard appears to be 100% native prairie plants, or at least close to that. Buffalo grass in the main lawn, then beds with lots of purple poppy mallow, columbine, little bluestem, milkweeds, liatris, etc.

Oddly though, there is a young pin oak, maybe six or seven feet high, in the hell strip (which is much narrower than mine, maybe four feet).

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texasranger2

Bad choice for street tree, they need 600 sq feet of space. The branching habit is to grow long low branches which point downward, all the way to the ground unless trimmed, making it a poor choice as a street tree or shade tree. Its way too big for an average yard and very messy all winter. They are also very fast growing & I think your neighbor might live to regret it when they start having trouble growing that native yard and buffalo grass after a few years, there won't be a drop of water or sun anywhere, the tree will suck it dry and get 70 feet tall.

The 19.5 inches of rain did a number on the Russian. Its the second time in 6 years its happened, now its really sick looking with no leaves its easy to decide to get rid of it. Native or not, I did like the textural mix of it with the grasses and it fit in visually with the xeric look of the landscape but mostly the fact that its always covered with bees and pollinators and so drought hardy. That spot needs something that will take extremes, very hot and dry but with an occasional wet feet period during unusually rainy springs. There's no sitting water but the continual drainage down toward the street was a problem for it and I'm not willing to have an ugly plant front and center all year again. Oddly enough, the spineless opuntia cactus did fine about 4 feet to the right of it.

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Nell(VA 6)

How about milkweed? I have a beautiful stand right next to my driveway which gets all the water in the street when it rains. Otherwise bone dry builders dirt with no topsoil. These great spangled fritillaries certainly enjoyed it.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I didn't know ligustrum was hard on sinuses..but that explains the last couple of weeks for me (didn't know what was smacking me so hard)..I moved into a neighborhood overrun with privet in the space between houses.


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s8us89ds

Woodstea, would you snap a picture of that neighbor's yard and upload it? It sounds beautiful. It could inspire us.

I must admit TexasRanger made a rare-but-valid exception to the benefit of aggressive native species. But I must point out that he's talking about an altered ecosystem: a prairie where natural wildfires have been suppressed. If we introduce controlled burning into the equation, the Cedar should hopefully no longer be a problem.

Otherwise, I agree with Wisconsin Tom that even the most aggressive natives are generally pioneer species that are eventually replaced by longer-living, slower-growing, taller, stronger species like Oaks. And whether aggressive of not, native almost always means much better for wildlife than aliens.

I'm against almost all aliens for that reason, even non-aggressive ornamentals and (non-critical) food-bearing plants. If there's a reasonable native alternative, I think it should it should come first. I love my delicious Japanese Loquat trees, but I know that I'm going to eventually smack them down as well. And if I can crack the code on how to grow native plants indoors, I'll be dumping all my houseplants for natives, too.

Texas Ranger, maybe take a before and after pic of the smackdown this weekend? It might inspire some of us to get out our hatchets!

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texasranger2

s8us, You are more rigid than myself. I allow several non natives to my yard, its just a yard for pity's sake and I want it to look good but first and foremost I need it to be water wise. I'd rate it at maybe 85% native. I also have several US natives not indigenous to my immediate area (or that grow within my state's boundary lines for that matter, you know those man-made map lines that some people insist on not crossing when selecting plants) which would cause a rigorist purist to start speech-afying.

In spite of what we would like to believe, nonnatives are often very good for local wildlife, there's no need to get overly zealous and start ripping out every nonnative on principle. The Russian Sage is a plant I still have in other spots and I do love it. wiscon hates it I know but it does draw the local pollinators more than most of my native plants and then there's that priority #1 issue around here--water conservation-- it certainly fits the bill on that. Not many plants can go on so little water the way this alien can and still take our heat and humidity or frigid winters.

Prairies and grasslands are easily destroyed, they are the most fragile ecosystem in the world. They took eons to form but it only takes a generation or two to destroy them forever and the cedars are more complex problem than just suppressed wild fires. Its one thing to bring back a forest, quite another matter altogether to attempt to bring back a grassland, if its even possible at all.

People don't have the same sense of value concerning prairies and grasslands as places in need of preservation so they don't have same zealous protective attitudes or respect that they hold for other ecosystems (ie trees). Most people don't understand that when it comes to the grasslands its all a matter of size. Little sections of preserved areas are nice but little preserved areas will not sustain prairie wildlife, cutting through with a road can kill out an entire species because they won't cross it.

I know my little pocket prairie really doesn't help the overall situation at all and would not flatter or fool myself into thinking otherwise, its strictly ornamental so I am not a rigorist here in my yard.

Just for a change, on earth day one of these years they, whoever 'they' are, ought to suggest something besides planting a tree. The drastic tree shortage has had plenty of exposure for years now in the press, not that I notice a lack of trees in my area, quite the opposite in fact and think a good thinning out is in order. How bout 'Help save the grasslands -- cut down some trees'? I like it.

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s8us89ds

At 85%, you're ahead of me - I estimate I'm still at 80% native. And I used to think like you. But after reading Doug Tallamy's book, I decided to aim for 100% native on principle. His thesis is that it's all about the insects. He makes a compelling case in my mind. The insects are a foundation of the ecological web. He goes into more detail about how, for example, 90% of bird species rear their young in insects, not berries. Or that butterflies may like flowers for the pollen, but they only deposit their larvae on certain types of leaves - almost all natives. I know birds like my Loquat fruit as much as I do - but it's the Loquat leaves that do nothing for insects. And there's also the question of how aliens affect soil chemistry - another unknown that has to be researched more.

You make a great case for prairies. I feel for you, fighting that lonely battle. If I lived in a prairie area, I would learn to love it and fight to protect it. But I guess I'm content to enjoy the Piney Woods ecosystem in all its swampy, mosquito-infested glory. And I guess that's sad for the sake of the prairie. As you said, people love trees. The love the very sight of them. I think the Post Oak Savannah is beautiful, but a completely treeless environment is hard for many of us to embrace, sadly.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Tex, we've been down this road before...remember? I like prairies and other pyric plant communities. It's just that up here in sconnie, I've had that paradigm rammed down my throat by those who apparently never heard of Paul Bunyan, lol! How can you grow up in Wisconsin and not know that at one time, we supplied the entire nation with lumber and other wood products, and still are among the absolute top states for forest products? But for you down there in Okey, I get it. South Florida is another area which is suffering greatly for the modern-day absence of fire. The pine flatwoods-what little isn't shopping malls and houses these days-absolutely depends on fire to keep ladder fuels out. It's pretty much fugged whereever they can't allow fire anymore, which is most of it.

Russian sage, lol...to me, that's right up there with Knockout roses and Walker's Low catmint-so utterly overused as to provoke nausea in me. But that's here, not in your area. Each region has its own list of concerns, no?

As to the "rightness" of this or that plant community, all I'm going to say today is that it is complex. S8 speaks of the temporary monocultures often produced by pioneer species and I agree. But hold on there one second: What do we mean by temporary? Those giant pine woods which once existed up here and which fueled the building of the very nation were in fact what silviculturists call a long-term seral stage, are by definition temporary. But that temporary timeframe is measure in hundreds to even thousands of years! Only major disturbance knocks the cycle back to an earlier stage.

A band I used to play in used to have me travelling westward on a regular basis. I wouldn't say I would want to live in the Great Plains but it would be equally wrong to say I didn't and don't appreciate the big empty. Quite the contrary, it has its own vibe, one which is very impressive in its own way. But we're not doing a good job with forest land in this country either. More shopping malls, roads, and McMansions coming right up!

+om

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Here in Missouri it could go either way. I'm working towards mostly prairie in my front yard (especially after the linden comes down this winter), but the back yard will be shadier, more of a forest edge thing. I've chosen smaller trees like downy serviceberry that fit my small space better than the huge pin oaks that are common in this neighborhood, and I'll be adding shrubs -- maybe spicebush -- at the end of the rain garden. I want more birds around, and I think the combo of insect-friendly natives plus woody vegetation (for berries and shelter) should help.

Speaking of berries, there's a big patch of pokeweed in the neighbor's back yard that edges into mine each year. I used to hate that it was there, but I've decided I like it. Someone told me that cedar waxwings like it -- one of my favorite birds.

And sticking with the topic -- I just dug out the last peony earlier this week. Not sure what's going in there yet, something bigger, perhaps Viburnum dentatum.

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s8us89ds

This is great stuff!

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texasranger2

This seems like a misunderstanding wiscon and yes, we have been down this road before. When I talk about people's love affair with trees and over planting of them I am speaking locally, the folks around here need to have their eyes opened. I was trying to share, or to be more honest, carp about the mentality of the local peoples attitudes concerning trees that I run into and see at every turn. I think of it as an ignorant, stuck in a knee-jerk mindset that is not ecologically beneficial in this part of the country.

I couldn't resist the classic example of a native plant gone amuck, namely the red cedars (a native tree through & through) invading the grasslands at ramming speed, the word invasive is completely appropriate in this case. Any other term would inaccurately minimize the problem. The very idea of anyone saying we should bring it on based on the fact that its a native species or assume the inevitable is acceptable fills me with horror. The National Forest Dept. is on this and so are the local authorities, I am not the only advocate.

On the other hand, I have discovered I am in a tiny minority in my preference open spaces without a lot of trees but that is a different issue. Thats personal taste but I do believe the grasslands need advocates too. Seems like trees are always being advocated from where I sit.

The forestation of the grasslands has become a common news worth story in my state because it has, by any definition, reached critical proportions and the grassland ecosystem will disappear if we don't intervene. Just think about it. We have deforestation going on in areas of the US that were once forests and forestation happing in the center of the US where it was once vast open grasslands. The same problem exists in Australia. I find this crazy making.

One more note. We do not have the stagnant air and pollution problems here like on the coasts and elsewhere so we don't need to 'tree-up' to add oxygen to the atmosphere in this windy, less populated part of the country.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

"I have come to the conclusion that very few people are able to see beauty in large expanses of 'nothing'...."

Texas Ranger, I agree with you on your assessment of peoples attitudes towards prairie, but this is not a new development. When Stephen Long traversed the western shortgrass prairie in the 1820's, he deemed the eastern expanse of Colorado as "presenting the aspect of hopeless and irreclaimable sterility"

Following in his footsteps, a myriad of explorers and pioneers headed west echoed his feelings. Stephen Watts Kearny marched his Army of the West across the "great American desert" and travelers from Europe complained emphatically that the land lying east of the Rocky Mountains was desolate and bare. Writers back east used the reports of men like Zebulon Pike and Stephen Long in their own interpretation of what lay beyond the Mississippi River, declaring that, on the whole, the western expanses of prairie were "uninhabitable." While places further to west, such as California and Oregon were booming, what was at the time an extension of western Kansas was strictly avoided. Maps of the great migration routes of the mid 19th century show that, in general, all routes went AROUND what would later become Colorado, a place only described as "tiresome to the eye and fatiguing the the spirit" inhospitable to any besides the "mongrel savages" that plagued the region.

And so, as people finally did decided to move here following the discovery of gold, they brought with them their preconceived notions of the ugliness of the landscape along with their own idea of natural beauty. Trees! Trees! Everywhere there MUST be trees! It's somewhat telling that Arbor Day was founded in the prairie state of Nebraska, and that towns along the Front Range in Colorado boast the year they were designated "Tree City USA." It's hard to imagine now, looking across the "Queen City of the Plains" that when William Greene Russell set up his prospecting camp at the confluence of the South Platte and Cherry Creek that even the ubiquitous cottonwood was a rare sight, scattered here and there along the wide, flat river bottoms.

I, like you, could be labeled a "tree hater." Oh of course there is beauty in a forest and a well placed tree is as much an addition to a landscape as any perennial (native or otherwise). But it is disheartening to see once vast and unique grasslands turned under by a forest of urban sprawl, accompanied by its regular force of crabapples, silver maples, ash, and honey locust. Sometimes, driving along the road you will find a patch of scarlet globemallow, a few cheery faces of sunflowers or gaillardia that were miraculously saved from the endless march of trees. On a hillside just north of me, spires of soaproot yucca still stand tall in the early summer (though, there are more than a few Russian olives crowding out a creek bed at the bottom).

I am often amazed looking out from the entrance road to the state park where I work at the still (mostly) open expanses. While the Indian paintbrush, blue grama at my feet are basking in the sun, a thunderstorm just to the east blackens the sky bending taller grasses over double and you can nearly imagine the undulating waves that inspired our forebears to characterize it as an "ocean of grass". I think I am the only person who ever stops on that road, everyone else speeds to the other side of the property thriving with stands of Douglas fir and aspen, and inundated with Gamble oak. After all, TREES are beautiful, the prairie is "sterile."






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s8us89ds

There is one time of year when the prairie is loved, though. At least here in Texas. When the wildflowers bloom in the springtime. The first European travelers to Texas consistently waxed poetic about the miles of beautiful colors - as far as the eye could see. Even today, the wildflowers in Texas are a big tourist draw, photo opportunity, and family tradition. My suburban community even scatters wildflower seeds all along the grassy strips every spring. Maybe the best marketing pitch isn't "save the prairie" - maybe the best marketing pitch is "save the wildflowers". (Or maybe "bring back the wild Buffalo", which they're trying to do in some places.)

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texasranger2

Zach, that was beautiful. I have read every book and checked into every documentary I could find on the grasslands. Its a heartbreaking story. I would give anything to be able to travel back in time and see the ocean of grass that drove grown men to madness as they traversed it. Its as is we have lost an entire ocean from the planet. To a man, every person I know seems to think they need to be around a lot of trees and to find someone write what you posted is very rare.

s8us, its interesting you say spring is the one time its loved in Texas. I would have never fallen in love with the prairie if I'd only seen it in spring when its all rather boring green with last years old growth still poking through and not really appealing to me so much unless I'm up close tramping around looking at individual plants. Its in mid to late summer and fall that the prairie truly comes into its own and is at its most glorious to most people who love it. I also love it in winter when its a hundred shades of neutral with clouds casting shadows on it or during a storm coming in from the distance that you can see from miles away with a deep grey sky against the miles of open prairie, there is nothing else like that. Grasses moving in harmony like big waves in the wind is hypnotizing. I love it when the early spring colors of green have matured and separated into softer more subtle tones forming large patterns and quiet beauty, the seed heads catching the afternoon light giving effects with continuous movement not seen in any other landscape. I'm usually in the passenger seat going down the road and I never get tired of looking.

I discovered a new field last year of prairie grasses, bluestem, indian grass and miles of big bluestem rather close by. We don't see big bluestem in big swaths like that around here very often. It was gorgeous in the late rays of the sun. I ordered a big bluestem plant from SRG that week. Its coming around nicely already showing a bit of red.

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s8us89ds

You guys are making me want to move to the prairie! :)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

For all you "tree-haters" out there, photographer Ansel Adams was on your side with respect to promiscuous planting of trees (from http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/incite/incite0201.html):

"Between the euc groves [previous paragraph discussed planting of blue gum], in the dry creekbed, grew some of the last coastal scrub in Marin County, a profusion of plants that belong here and are all vital to wildlife--coast live oak, California bay laurel, monkey flower, coyote bush, wax myrtle, California sagebrush, lizard tail, mule's ear, cow parsnip, willows, native bunchgrasses. The scrub had its own gray, understated beauty, a beauty largely unnoticed by the public. Coastal scrub never had a Joyce Kilmer to write sappy verse about it. Trees don't belong on this riparian corridor or on most of the surrounding hills or, for that matter, in most of earth's terrestrial ecosystems. When the Boy Scouts started cluster-bombing Marin County with seedlings, Ansel Adams helped run them out, declaring, "I cannot think of a more tasteless undertaking than to plant trees in a naturally treeless area, and to impose an interpretation of natural beauty on a great landscape that is charged with beauty and wonder, and the excellence of eternity."

In those days (1950s and 60s), redwood seedlings were handed out en masse to grade-school kids in California and planted EVERYWHERE, mostly inappropriately. Adams, I have read elsewhere, objected in particular to the planting of redwood seedlings willy-nilly all over the landscape.

It's always a tough argument to make -- everyone loves trees, right? (sigh) The other route to being "over-treed" are agency (U.S. Fish and Wildlife, CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) mitigation rules that mandate replacing every tree removed for a construction project with at least three. I can tell you that it is frequently REALLY difficult to find enough appropriate space for that many trees...

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s8us89ds

One good thing about trees planted in ecologically-inappropriate areas is that eventually many of them will be purged from there by nature herself. It may take a flood or a drought or a storm or a wildfire or some other natural event, but they will often eventually get the boot.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Texas Ranger, I think another reason that folks like you and I have such a fondness for this landscape is because to us, it's home. When people first came west from States like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arkansas and Ohio, to them, home was forest of hardwood trees. To them, wandering in a vast, seemingly unchanging and unending ocean of grass where hardly so much as a hill or rock outcropping broke the "monotony" of the landscape, was as alien and far removed from their home as the surface of the moon. When they finally stopped, they set out to make this scary and unfamiliar place familiar, to make it feel like home.

My dad was born in western Pennsylvania and grew up moving around the South East. He laments the fact that Colorado is the only state he has ever lived in where a person has to BUY trees to put in their yard. Everywhere else, he says, you have cut them down just to have a yard at all! It's understandable that, to him, a landscape ought to have trees. After all, that's all he ever knew for the better part of half his life. (Imagine my surprise when he moved to Ft. Morgan, about and hour and a half EAST of Denver!)

You are right though, how sad the story of it is. Relating to the topic at hand, most of my prairie has been displaced, not just be swaths of housing and strip malls, but by cheatgrass. Every time I look out at the acres and acres of prairie that was imported as forage grasses, I cringe at the fact that smooth brome is still touted in this state as excellent range grass and you can buy seed by the ton. Gone is the stubby buffalo grass and eyelashes of blue grama.

Speaking of books, you may have already read this one, but of not, there is one called "Island of Grass" written about the Fromme Prairie in Fort Collins you might enjoy.

s8, unfortunately, the natural forces that prevented trees from gaining a foothold in the prairie to begin with have been so suppressed by man that rivers that once flowed 1,000 feet wide and who's banks were virtually treeless are now barely 15 feet across and crowded with them. Blue jays and white tails were once confined to the east until we stopped the fires and flash floods that prevented the establishment of the forest corridors that now line rivers like the Arkansas and South Platte.

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s8us89ds

And it isn't just the eastern United States where most of our ancestors (and cultural traditions) come from. Before that, it was Europe - another mostly-forested continent. For many of our families, it has been thousands of years since we lived in a grassland ecological zone.

And there may also be something special about the deciduous forest biome worldwide and its effect on civilization. There has been plenty of scholarly debate and study about how and why these areas (which include eastern North America, Europe, Japan) have dominated the world economically and technologically for many centuries, if not millennia. Some point to the abundance of cheap firewood, building lumber, and ship-building wood as the reason.

I also see lots of recent psychological and sociological research on the effect of trees on humans: merely looking at trees apparently reduces stress, increases memory, and on and on. Some call it Biophilia.

But it's terribly sad that our native prairies aren't better understood and protected.

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texasranger2

s8us, unfortunately it would take a disaster of epic proportions like a super eruption in Yellowstone National Park I saw on a documentary once which would pretty much wipe out all life for hundreds of miles to wipe out all the trees imported to the Great Plains. Trees are so abundant, widespread and entrenched I can't see it happening any other way. The growing conditions for their needs are just about perfect around here and when it comes to which will win, grass or trees, grass never stands a chance. I don't think we'd want to live through a natural cause which would wipe them out. I don't look to see a return of the buffalo roaming free on the prairies, they were as important to the ecosystem as fires. Its a very delicate and complex ecosystem.

Zach, I haven't read that book but I will look for it. I ran across this video of a book by Michael Forsberg last night and want to get a copy of it too. I probably inherited my love of wide spaces from my dad. He hated trees and when the family land was divided he got the section that had no trees for that very reason. Him and my mother used to go round and round anytime she wanted to plant one. His family originally settled in Pond Creek, Oklahoma. Here's a picture of the place just after the land run. It sort give you the idea. Of course Pond Creek now has trees.




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ncrescue

At the risk of prolonging all of the pros and cons of trees in your area, I would like to mention the Dust Bowl of the 30's, after which "President Roosevelt ordered the Civilian Conservation Corps to plant a huge belt of more than 200 million trees from Canada to Abilene, Texas to break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil itself in place. " In many minds trees are still the answer, forgetting what actually caused the loss of the prairie soils. Fascinating reading if you have the time: What Caused the Dust Bowl?

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texasranger2

Uh Oh. Are we over talking this?

That was a man made fix for a man made disaster. The many pros of planting or protecting trees is well known, well documented and universally accepted by just about everyone already and has been for a long time.

Its the con side that needs attention, sensitivity and education because it is a very hard sell to most people who usually just react angrily and the very idea and while most people do mean well when they plant them they often do so in ignorance which reminds me......

I thought the comments made by cats-pa were very interesting and I'd never heard those quotes by Ansel Adams. I got a kick out of that. Sorry, I meant to say something about it in my last post. The US Fish and Wildlife's planting of three for every one removed is mind boggling but the story about Adams running the Boy Scout's out made me laugh out loud.

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ncrescue

Well, yes, but it gives some explanation as to why people think trees are appropriate, even when they are not.

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texasranger2

ncrescue, I assume you live in North Carolina? I lived there for three years and had the typical yard full of those tall pines growing every few feet with often hazy skies and lots of shade, no lawn to speak of, just a continuous layer of pine needles, no real wind blowing and moldy shoes in my closet. I didn't personally care for it myself since it seemed dank all the time but its a pretty place to visit with a lot of trees that are indigenous, but its not home. I can imagine someone from there would not be drawn to the idea of this part of the country where trees didn't originally exist, can be a big problem and not an answer.

Most people who originally settled here thought trees were appropriate exactly as you are saying, so thats no surprise, and the ones who have moved here since typically think the same way which is the very mind set we were talking about as to how the problem got started in the first place. Most people are unaware there is a problem at all and they go ahead and do whatever they want.

Rows of trees as a quick fix to halt more wind blown soil loss from the man made disaster that resulted from plowing up the native grasses was done. Trees are not a naturally occurring situation. In other words -- alien. Trees suck the ground dry unlike native grasses which hold the soil and replenish the ground water.

No one thinks or is suggesting that no trees applies everywhere.

I am sorry you think this is being over discussed. I have found the comments interesting. Alien smack-downs would include thousands of trees if I had any say in the matter.

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ncrescue

Not over-discussed; just trying to suggest why some people want trees, other than just missing their version of "home." No offense intended, and none taken from your response.

NC actually had prairies MANY years ago, but not vast ones as you all have/had. And I think the idea of re-creating, even in a small way, prairies is an admirable one.

About 10 years ago a group went on a rescue that, according to a professor at NC State, was the best example of a remnant prairie he had seen in the state. Gone now; condos and retail stores.

I am all for trying to use native plants that are local to your area, and in your case, these grasses and other prairie type plants are perfect.

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s8us89ds

I'm loving this discussion of the prairie! If we want to start a new thread called "no more trees in the prairie", I'll follow that, too. Just someone post a link to it so we all know to go there.

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texasranger2

Perhaps I read that 'well yes' part wrong. ncrescue, I am abundantly aware of why people want trees, all I have to do is walk down my own block or talk to almost anyone in the country.

To run into a few people on GW who don't go into fight mode but actually agree that trees do not belong in certain places.... well, its a first time experience for me after many years of posting and reading and I have to say its downright refreshing and novel. After learning better, I don't dare post such notions anywhere else, I already did that a long time back and got angry or defensive reactions or at the very least, patronizing ones by people feeling sorry for me or anyone else living out here in such a dismal place and how lucky they are by contrast. You'd think by the fallout I was some tree murdering crazy person standing on their porch chainsaw in hand just to suggest such a horrible idea.

People will keep on planting trees no matter what and no idea of prairie is going to matter because they don't see anything out there worth looking at, exactly like the people who get worked up or defensive on GW about this subject.

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Nell(VA 6)

Has someone started the new thread yet? If so, could you post the link here please. I am very interested in this subject.

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s8us89ds

Ranger, I'm coming back to GW recently after several years off. And I've noticed that people's attitudes have changed a lot. It's almost unrecognizable. Ecological gardening used to be some small crazy niche. The mere mention of "smacking down a Crap Myrtle" would have elicited anger, mockery, indignation, and calls for my head. Referring to non-native species as "aliens" would have probably done the same. Instead, we're hearing from people all around the country that are passionate about ecological restoration. Maybe California's drought was the tipping point. I don't know. But it's great to hear from all of you and I love what you're sharing. Please keep it coming! It inspires me and gives me hope!

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texasranger2

s8us, how different people who post got interested in natives would be interesting to read about.

People will always disagree about plants and when it comes to natives vs non natives it can get passions up. There are some true warlike zealots of native plants I've run into that I don't really like talking to on the subject. Personally, I don't mind the hundreds of crepe myrtles around the city but I'm not interested in having one. They don't offend me because they do so well in drought, bloom pretty and don't invade the surrounding countryside. They are like the common, familiar, old friend nonnative shrubs that bloom in spring I've seen all my life, strictly ornamental, familiar and harmless like many other nonnatives. I can't imagine spring without some of those shrubs and certain imported bulbs blooming happily around the city announcing spring.

Others such as Callery Pears are creating forests around here and cause me to react and sometimes feel outrage. Yesterday I pulled about 50 Ravenna Grass seedlings that originated from one growing in my neighbors yard that volunteered 3 years ago. If I'd known, I would have sprayed it dead when I first noticed it since they don't care about what comes up over there and only mow the bermuda in the center of the property once a week ignoring the fenced property line like so many people do. I try to keep the trees, privet and other brush at bay along it by spraying or digging. Yesterday I read Ravenna is listed as invasive in some areas.

I can go ballistic over bamboo and avoid conversations because I can't even stay calm around people who insist on planting such things and don't care if it invades their neighbors or anywhere else for that matter.

My interest wanes when it comes to woodlands or shade plants because they don't appeal me and often I have nothing to say at all. Other people are very passionate about them. I am more familiar and drawn to native plants needing full or part sun.

The severe drought in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado has turned a lot of people around and I would hope people have changed their approach and attitude in California. Others will always turn on their sprinklers twice a week as if there is no tomorrow and grow whatever plants they want no matter what and keep their perfect fescue lawns well watered all year long, the drought be damned. I probably left out a state that suffered the last drought.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, it's even more mind-boggling when the tree mitigation rate is inch-for-inch. "The agencies" did require that on one of the projects I've worked on the past several years. The project involved raising an existing dam by four feet, which then required expansion of the stilling basin and fortifying the training walls. This led to removal of 39 native, non-willow riparian trees, making for a replacement total of at least 649 trees, since total dbh of the removed trees was 649 inches and largest caliper of feasible planting material would be 1", tops.....I've since shifted to other projects (so mercifully not my problem), but I believe they are STILL trying to find places for those trees, and I don't even want to think about where they are going to try to cram them in.

It takes a specially-tuned, educated eye to see and appreciate the nuances of grasslands, something I see you've got, texasranger, judging from what you've written above. My usual "beats" are the defeated grasslands of lower-elevation California, which though dominated by exotic annuals, still retain nearly all the native species they had, if in greatly reduced numbers. Even these depauperate grasslands tell interesting stories about soils, history, and a lot else, just by species composition. For example, you can still see where a fire break was plowed over two decades or more previous, even if there has been no disturbance since, by the species growing there. But the vast majority of people can't "read" or relate to grasslands and mostly consider them inferior to places that have trees.

Talking about people's first impulse being to plant trees: I belong to the "Friends" group dedicated to addressing stewardship problems with a 300-acre alkali-sink grassland owned by the city here. Its a rare type of habitat created by shallow hardpan and perched saline water tables and, as a result, it is totally treeless and the only shrub species is iodine bush, period. Also has several federally-listed rare plant species. The land is technically "preserved", but the place regularly gets trashed by off-road vehicles, ad-hoc building of BMX bike tracks by local kids, dumping, etc., in part because it looks like a useless, vacant lot to the vast majority of folks and, on top of that, a good part of it is unfenced. A local landscape architecture student proposed building public-access boardwalks to protect the sink while allowing people to walk around and appreciate the place. (Believe me, what this place really needs, right now, is an effective fence -- first things first!) Included in the plan were strategically-placed benches for resting, shaded by (you guessed it) trees! (The student noted in his write-up that trees were important, because there was no shade out there...)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

By the way, I think you are right, s8 and texasranger, about drought playing a role. Native planting has suddenly become the "vogue" here and even the nuance that supposedly "native" redwoods don't really belong in semi-arid Livermore is starting to sink in as redwoods die all over town due to lack of irrigation.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I am no purist when it comes to plants. I don't strive for 100% native because there are many imported plants that I really enjoy as well. One of the favorite things I have is Siberian iris, and winter would seem virtually endless if it weren't for tuilps, daffodils, and crocus to remind me that spring does in fact exist, even when we get more snow in April than we did in January. I would be remiss to not have the English lavender that every year in late June is SWARMED with bees (not to mention walking around smelling great the rest of the day after I cut it back in the winter).

But, with that being said why ought I plant a miscanthus or Karl Foester and look just like everyone else, when I can instead plant a giant sacaton or switch grass? They give me the same effect, are much more unique, and maybe in some teeny-tiny little way I can feel good ecologically about my garden. Today, I counted 16 lightning bugs in my front yard (a somewhat rare sight in Colorado), 3 different kinds of solitary wasps, one kind of butterfly and more native bee species than I have ever seen just this morning. It's nothing major, I know I'm not going to save the ecology of the Denver area with a single yard, but to be able to experience just a smidgen of the natural world right outside my front door, I think is very cool. After all, I work in the conservation/natural resource management field for a reason.

So that's why I like natives, because it lets me "pretend" I'm out in nature right here in the middle of suburbia. Like I said, I will never strive for an all native planting, because I really can't get behind any ideology so rigidly, whether it be plant's or otherwise. I prefer to have grey areas and wiggle room. And come on, is there anyone who doesn't think Kniphofia is a really cool looking plant?!

However, I do try to stay away from things that are known to, or have a reasonable probably to escape either into the neighbors yard or into the wild, and I try to encourage others as well. Course, no one ever listens to little old me, but it's the thought that counts I suppose.


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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Your argument can be supported, Zach, by numerous examples of native animals utilizing non-natives as if they were just regular-old habitat. The federally endangered willow fly-catcher has adapted to invasive tamarisk (salt-cedar) instead of willow to such an extent that now tamarisk is not removed where that fly-catcher lives. Professor Art Shapiro of U.C. Davis has decades of data documenting the shift of native butterflies to non-native species, with 32% of native butterflies around Davis now feeding or breeding on exotic plants. And on and on...California of course has many examples of this, being invasion-central :-).

I think a big part of what makes habitat useful to animals (from mammals to insects and on down) is how the plants are laid out and managed, not necessarily on whether native or not (though that can be important in some cases). Isolated trees and shrubs separated by "deserts" of mulch or mown lawn (the orderly motif of suburbia these days, aided and abetted by leaf-blowers and other infernal contraptions) do not make great habitat -- no shelter, no other resources. Everything gets "cleaned up" as if it were the front parlor or something. On the other hand, continuous drifts of plants that deposit debris, fruit, and seeds that are then allowed to stay nourish both critters and the plants themselves.

I really get a lot of enjoyment from my little lily pond (a 300-gallon stock pond sunk in the ground). I get at least 4 species of dragonflies from it, versus none anywhere else in the neighborhood (swimming pools are not dragonfly habitat!). Lightening bugs are great to have -- had them when we lived in the woods in Massachusetts -- and a testament to your approach.


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texasranger2

Oklahoma out by Nash at our family farm, the house is gone but the farm buildings are still there and it still looks just like when I was a kid ---just shades of brown in early spring. I mean really guys, I can hardly blame people for wanting a lilac bush, a forsythia, a flowering quince, a few fruit trees and maybe some daffs and tulips.....or even a few shade trees up by the house. Spring comes much earlier in the cities than it does out in the countryside here because of imported plants, even the native trees take their time. Of course vegetable gardens are common in this area and so is wheat, people have to eat.


I read "Anyone can love the mountains but it takes heart to love the grasslands". To my eye this is very appealing but I grew up around it. The simplicity and starkness holds a special beauty for me especially in autumn. Its located in the more northern flatter part of the state where its not tree-d up like down here in central Oklahoma, lots of private farms still exist. The soil is rich sandy loam.

California sounds downright CRAZY. catspa & Zach, you both sound like experts, people who actually know what you are talking about rather than just an opinionated lover of prairie grasses like myself, I am really enjoying your interesting posts. That area called the Alkali sink grasslands being used for dirt bikes etc reminds me of the Great Salt Plains here, its located close to Nash as well and they've made it into a recreational area for recreational vehicles and such, you can dig for crystals sometimes in a designated area. One thing is for sure, no trees will be planted here not to mention non native plants. I love this place. I looked up iodine bush, I love it.

OKLAHOMA GREAT SALT PLAINS





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s8us89ds

I would argue with Catspa about how insects underutilize alien plants, but I'm enjoying all the posts too much. :) We can argue about aliens another day.

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texasranger2

s8us, I hope that one single book by Doug Talamy isn't the only thing you base your opinion on. I'm not advising anyone to go bonkers with nonnatives but there is a balance we need to keep in order to stay realistic and not go diving off the deep end into close minded zealotry, not that I am saying you are a zealot. Sounds like Doug Talamy might be one though.

I recently saw a documentary on monarch butterflies and they said the western monarchs are doing quite fine in the eucalyptus groves to roost and overwinter in California. They even went so far as to say they prefer these trees over native trees. Is this true?

My second weakness in plants besides grasses are what I call scrub plants, those subshrubs that have small leaves, stay short and look rangy or 'deserty' and which grow in desolate places, the kinds of plants that are never or hardly ever for sale commercially except maybe seeds if a person looks diligently. They are usually indigenous to New Mexico, California, Oklahoma Panhandle, West Texas or Colorado and the locals would never have them as ornamentals. I am a sucker for plants like this and have had pretty good success getting some to grow and become established with care. That probably puts me in the planting 'alien' species category worse than any other temptation not counting all the cactus & winter hardy agaves I have. They serve as the bones of the landscape.

And yea Zach, red hot poker is one cool plant.


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s8us89ds

Texas Ranger, I've read many books and articles on ecology and gardening, but Professor Tallamy's works are unlike any others I've seen. He is a research entomologist, not a gardener, and has become a pessimistic, alarmist voice of conservation ecology that has joined the ranks of native plant gardeners - basically to shake us up with the latest research and to call for more research. He's not much of a philosopher and doesn't pretend to be one. I don't agree with any personal preferences he might have. He has simply brought an academic debate into the public arena. I hope he is proven wrong, I keep looking for credible evidence against his. I haven't found any yet. If anyone can point me in the direction of some, I will eagerly delve into it. The rest of the academic community seems to respect his work, as far as I can tell.

In 5 or 10 years, Tallamy will probably either be seen as a great early voice or as a quack. I have no clue which it will be. I encourage anyone interested to check out his findings and decide for themselves. It completely changed my perspective and solidified my commitment to restoration ecology. When we talk of the vanishing prairie, for example, I don't doubt that the problem is real and serious.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I do not believe there to be an ugly or unworthy plant community. And even here in Wisconsin, there were "originally" some relatively small areas of prairie, these being man-made via Indians burning off of the land. All potentially beautiful stuff.

My beef-and this is true in my situation if not alone, then at least, restricted to others living and working in formerly forested areas-is that when the term "native landscaping" or whatever variant, gets used, it invariably means prairie plants. These plants are fine and dandy, and some of them truly did exist, even within areas largely forested, in those temporary meadows created by fire, windthrow, etc. So, I could be out in one of our little prairie plantings (around stormwater ponds) as somebody stresses about how the prairie clover or some such item is doing, while right next door, maples, basswoods, ash, and all the rest are being torn down for another McMansion. This is all about context, as are so many issues. I've even read now-by people who seem to have just enough information to be dangerous-that my area "would have probably been prairie" before civilization moved in. Such a crock. The large map in my cubie wall tells the tale, being made possible by the copious notes taken by those who initially surveyed this state. Patches of prairie did exist to my south and west. Even a little blob up by Green Bay, this being the mid 1800's.

We have a prairie advocate in this state-started a nursery, pushed and pushed for adoption of prairie as the native plant community to be placed on a pedestal above all others...really...to the exclusion of all others. This man, a brilliant speaker, has done much damage in my opinion, helping people forget who they are and where they are. This range of feelings influence all I write here. Oklahoma? Hell yeah, promote your prairie. East-central Wisconsin? Give me a break.

Now, the prairie, as a major category of plant community, has been displaced to an alarming degree, 'tis true. But that will never mean to me that it should be held above all the other plant communities as being somehow more important, more valid. And where it was not the primary system, it should not be promoted. But every Wild Ones person, every "master gardener"...it's all you ever hear about, and that has had a chilling effect on how I interpret these things. I think that up here, the promotion of prairie landscaping is just another way to bash nature, to keep it from being what it could be, which almost invariably would be forest. Nor is forest one entity, there being innumerable variations on that theme as well.

Oak savanna is perhaps more fitting for relatively vast areas of S. Wisconsin. But that too was 100% a man-made feature of the landscape.

+oM

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texasranger2

I have been slowly picking up what is going on up there in Wisconsin from your posts and frankly I'm completely stumped by it. I would imagine theres some meadows but I do not think of Wisconsin as part of the plains at all and why that attitude has become so prevalent and undermines the more typical ecology is indecipherable to me. Where'd all the tree lovers go? They must have all moved down here because there aren't any prairie lovers locally that I can find. Maybe people take the "ole boring (yawn) just another common area like we have growing everywhere" for granted and want something novel just for variety sake? If you see something out the car window everyday, you cease to see it all or people just take it for granted.

There are people I think of as "the flower lovers" out there. If its not blooming, its not worthy of planting or looking at. The result is a few well known species like gaillardia, echinacea, poppies, lupines etc (typical wild seed packet stuff) becomes popular and to plant a little area means you helped reestablish a prairie and saved the butterflies and planted a prairie to help save the wildlife. Not that a little plot with wildflowers isn't a good thing but its hardly a prairie restoration, more like a thimble of water from an ocean. Lately wildflowers have become fadish and popular thanks to highway plantings and people like Lady Bird Johnson, I like them and applaud doing that on the roadsides but they aren't typically what I want to grow myself.

wiscon, Other than this shallow supposition, I am stumped why that weird attitude is going on at all in any of the Great Lakes states. Your situation sounds like the exact reverse of attitudes down here where people's interest in plants seems hell bent on making this state into a parklike setting and value trees at the expense of sun and open areas.

I've paid money for bluestem plants even though its growing wild all around me. Most people here would think I'm crazy but for a typical yard I found some of the cultivars are better behaved and make for a more upright uniform look in a landscaping situation, in other words, I had to start over from scratch with the BS. I found a particular strain of sideoats grama that is very neat, thick and stiffly upright too.

s8us, I've learned by trial and error that certain adjustments must be made in the city when its a yard in a neighborhood surrounded by other yards and people. Its extremely easy to create what looks like an overgrown, out of hand, weedy looking ugly mess in your yard so the rules are different. When you go lawn free (have you?) you learn this real quick because visual composition needs to play a big part in plant selection.

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s8us89ds

This is a great exchange and I think we're seeing mutual understanding on both sides of the prairie.

Texas Ranger, I've got another recent thread on GardenWeb called "crazy hippie wild back yard" or something like that and it has pictures. You say a suburban yard can quickly look an "overgrown, out of hand, weedy looking ugly mess"? That's exactly what my back yard looks like - and I love it - and it was intentional. My front yard is another matter. It's a delicate tightrope to get an ecologically vibrant front yard and not scare the neighbors and attract the local authorities. So I still have maybe 20% turf lawn grass on my property. But I'm shrinking it every year. It'll be down to about 10% before I'm done. It'll just be enough to make a nice transition from the neighboring properties.

Wisconsin Tom, great post. But I just wanted to point out that, if for example, a particular pine forest was artificially converted into an oak savannah by native tribes (through regular fires)...and maintained that way for 5,000+ years...many ecologists might say the time period was long enough for significant plant and animal evolution to take place to make that ecosystem now optimally function as an oak savannah. So all the native birds and insects and other creatures now expect an oak savannah there.

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texasranger2

My neighbors yard looks like that, an unkempt mess of underbrush, tall plants of who knows what, volunteer trees along the property line that we have to pay yearly to keep trimmed and off our house, a pond overgrown with vegetation I hate to even think about, mosquito's, trees & vines coming up right next to his foundation and everywhere else destroying his property with a small area of thinly growing grass in the middle where he lets the dogs out and then right back in again. I have no choice and have to look at it everyday because unfortunately his yard is about two feet higher up than ours. It also blocks our west access to the sun along the whole west side due to the line of 30 ft tall volunteer trees due to neglect along his side of the property line. His is obviously intentional too, takes all types I guess.

Have you ever seen the show 'Life After People' on the History Channel? I'd guess it is now about 25 years 'after people' in letting nature take its natural course.

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s8us89ds

Do you live next door to me by any chance?? (Except I'm not an international.)

Seriously, your neighbor is my hero. I should form a club with that guy. In fact, if you can snap a photo of his thicket, I can see if mine is crazier than his. My 30-foot volunteer trees are only 7 years old. I would love to proudly have a 100%-volunteer yard...but I've planted too many bare root seedlings and transplanted too many other things. I live in a humid subtropical bottomland Pine-Oak forest. In other words, it's "swamp landscaping" at its finest. I proudly have more mosquito colonies per square foot than anyone in the neighborhood. It's the "West Nile yard".

P.S. And, yes, I loved that series Life After People! Nature 1, Humanity 0!

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Yes, there is always that fine line between meeting civil expectations and creating habitat when living in populated places... It can be more than just differences in taste and culture, though. A fundamental problem with urban, suburban, and the more populated rural areas is that the forces that keep the rambunctious members of ecosystems in check (that provide their "environmental resistance") are often not present -- whole complements of insects, other herbivores, and other components missing, thanks to human tinkering in the past -- leading to over-population or domination by some species, where normally they would not be so prevalent.

For example, whatever keeps native oak seedlings in check in the wild is obviously not in operation in my backyard, because I have more seedlings from my large valley oak than you would ever see in "natural" (or what passes for it these days) conditions. My former neighbor's overgrown shrubs, vines, waist-high grass and weeds, totally unedited, mostly supported a burgeoning population of roof-rats -- not the kind of wildlife one appreciates! -- and obviously did not support their predators. The absence of large, top predators, in general, in human-populated areas, has led to the over-dominance of so-called "meso-predators", like skunks, raccoons, and feral cats, to the detriment of native birds and reptiles, etc. Thinking along these lines, an overabundance of mosquitoes, s8, may be more a sign of something missing (lack of mosquito predators) than evidence of natural exuberance, though certainly it is important to have some mosquitoes (the mosquito-fish in my lily pond, standing in for the native minnows that are no longer available, certainly think so!).

So, though I'm a big fan of landscapes that mimic nature, I'm cautious about just letting things run amok, because, unless one has a large enough landscape to maintain all the critical pieces (about the size of a male mountain-lion's territory, say), many are likely missing. So, results are not likely going to be good in the smaller landscapes that most of us have unless there's at least some intervention and guidance. This is sort of the point that Doug Tallamy made in this recent op-ed piece (here), when he talks about having to "play god", to some extent, because there is so little nature left in these places. In my case, since I have no deer or rabbits, I sort of have to play their roles in my little ecosystem.

wisconsitom, there has been a similar state of affairs here in California with the mania for planting native perennial bunch grasses EVERYWHERE as the restoration default for any and all non-forested spaces. Because California's lower-elevation native grasslands were totally converted to exotic annual grasslands even before the Spanish, who brought the exotics to the New World in the first place, got here themselves, nobody actually knows what the original native grasslands looked like. There are remnants of native perennial grass prairies along the coast, so assumptions were made that this is what it should all be, even though this is obviously not true, ecologically. In all likelihood, forbs (flowers) were more dominant than grasses in drier inland areas, but try telling that to the perennial bunchgrass mavens (it's been at least a four-decades long argument out here -- actually longer, come to think of it -- started with Burcham's paper in 1957...)

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s8us89ds

Catspa, you make excellent points - but you're a professional and perhaps a bit of a purist? For the rest of us novices, a landscape that goes from concrete patios and chlorine swimming pools...to weeds and roof rats feasted upon by neighborhood cats...that's probably an improvement. :) That's probably "nature" to many urban dwellers. :) At least it's increased biomass and ecosystem services. :)

As for the overabundance of mosquitoes on my property, that seems to match the nearby nature preserves and reportedly even the few near-virgin swamps in my part of the country. As Buffalo originally swarmed the American grasslands by the millions, perhaps mosquitoes are simply naturally abundant in swamplands of the world.

Luckily in my area, when it stops raining for a couple weeks (which is common), the mosquito populations dwindle to a fraction of their peak during rainy times. I've noticed an explosion in my lizard population in recent years since I've begun "mosquito gardening" - which makes me very happy. (I love those little guys.) And I assume I have a healthy bat population in my neighborhood, but I've never checked. Perhaps bats are underrepresented in my neighborhood because of lack of suitable habitat. I'm considering building bat houses, but I've only just started to study this issue.

P.S. And thanks for posting the link to that article. It's a good 2-minute read for anyone who wants to see what Tallamy is all about, without having to read 200 pages.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I go back and forth about aesthetic appeal vs. ecological value. In the front yard especially I lean towards aesthetics as I see myself as an ambassador for native plants. There's only so much I can do ecologically in a 40-foot wide city lot, but if other people get interested in natives because they like what they see in my yard, then I can have a much wider impact.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Just to be perfectly clear, I've got absolutely no problem with the viewpoints of anyone in on this convo. In fact, this is about as good as it gets in GW....er Houzz land. We're talking about real things and real deep topics at that.

TR et al, I think part of what has happened up here is that, years ago, it was noted that the key huntable wildlife species needed a disturbed environment to build up into large populations. If we restrict this to just the white-tailed deer, the nexus of short-rotation timber cropping for paper pulp and high deer populations made lots of folks think this to be the "natural" order of things. Then just a bit later, it was correctly pointed out that at least in the "central sands" part of this state, there used to be prairie chickens and some other near-vanquished wildlife species, which species did indeed rely on a grassland type of cover for their survival. Somehow, that was conflated into the notion amongst wildlife biologists that a young, early-successional-stage landscape was the proper answer to all questions pertaining to wildlife. This only began to change when folks like me said 'what about the song birds, pine martens, etc. etc. that actually only do well in a late-successional stage. But our little voices were and are easily drowned out by the big-business needs of deer hunting and also ruffed grouse, a species which needs all age ranges of aspen to do well. Back to short-rotation logging.

There has been for some time within our state DNR a schism between wildlife managers, who basically want everything to look like a prairie, and foresters, who tend to favor big trees, which of course, take time to get that way. And none of this even begins to describe the utter folly of the current "leadership" of this state, a band of ignorant fools who will-before they're through-have pretty much destroyed everything that matters here. You may have heard the name of the chief clown of this group, a man so lacking in self-awareness that he fancies himself presidential material. I can assure you, he is nothing more than a professional politician who has not yet received his necessary smackdown, to bring that term back into view!

+oM

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Nell(VA 6)

I followed you, Wisc, until that very strange foray into politics. That part was unhelpful and wrong. I got a federal grant to install a pollinator habitat on my farm thanks to his initiative. The guidance has been right on target. I also have a rare cedar glade on my property and get most of the best info from public sources. The government has made and continues to make massive mistakes vis-a-vis ecology; but you have the wrong man there.


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texasranger2

I echo the thoughts posted by Woods Tea. My profession is art, I'm not involved in ecological restoration, rescues or wildlife management but am interested & sensitive to those subjects. Visual beauty is higher on my list of priorities, I have to be honest. In a pristine landscape there is always beauty and harmony.

Urban ecologies need to be respected as well as the ecology in the wild. We are also a part of nature needing food and healthy places to live. We should maintain realistic attitudes and have the wisdom to know that what works to the good outside of an urban setting is not always a desirable thing within a populated area. In an urban environment it is important to be considerate of the health and rights of others. We should not rigidly fight our personal ecological wars in these altered environments by letting plants run amok at the expense of others. In my mind, that is right up there with letting aliens run amok in the wild. Mosquitos or rodents should not be encouraged, landscapes & property should be well managed by owners, boundary lines should be respected & maintained responsibly because otherwise urban blight is the result. I have seen this happen over and over here and it does not create a good environment.

wiscon, Thank you for the clarification, its interesting because its about a part of the country of which I am dismally unfamiliar with. I promise I will never shove prairies down your throat as something you need to work on preserving there. Same goes to catspa.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Thanks, texasranger, but, to be clear, I actually think we DO need to work on preserving and restoring prairies here in CA. The question, because we have so many varieties of native ones, is which kind? Even of the native perennial grasslands on the coast, there are many varieties as you go from north to south, then as you head east, inland, even more varieties with whole different species composition, usually with more annuals, show up. To clarify, my objection mainly was to the one-size-fits-all planting of a single grass species, Nassella (once and now again Stipa) pulchra, which has even, to show how politics plays a part in all this, been named the "state grass" (!). It's a beautiful, graceful grass. I have a stand of it growing in the backyard under my valley oak. However, it doesn't belong everywhere that there is a grassland. There are other native grasses, just as beautiful -- where the grassland is should determine which grass (and forb) species are most appropriate and things shouldn't be over-simplified..

By the way, I enjoyed your photo of your family farm in Nash. Our family would have appreciated all that open grassland. Our family farm was a cow-and-calf operation up in Mendocino County here in CA, which was mostly oak savanna and brush. It was homesteaded by my grandparents during the Depression. In order to keep the brush from taking over the grasslands they would set fires late every fall, just before the rains were set to start (just as the Native Americans had done for centuries prior). That ended by the 1960s, however, when the U.S. Forest Service adopted, and was able to implement, a strict fire-suppression policy.

Your salt plains are something else -- is there not a single growing thing? In the alkali sink here there are areas where water pools and then the salt piles up there after evaporation -- called "scalds", and nothing grows within them, though some plant species specialize in growing around the edges of scalds. Those plants often secrete salt crystals. Surrounding the scalds, at slightly higher elevation, are areas of grass, mostly saltgrass and alkali sacaton (Spriobolus airoides).

wisconsitom, I've read that the new management of your DNR is getting rid of all the scientific staff and going all in for "game management" and nothing else. Good grief, no wonder you are pessimistic -- not likely to end well, just repeating all the same old mistakes that Aldo Leopold fought against nearly a hundred years ago.

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texasranger2

The crystals at the Salt Plains are selenite crystals. I need to go up there and visit the farm and drive just a bit bit further down by Jet, Oklahoma to do some digging, my brother and sister have both been there recently and I'm very jealous. Speaking of aliens, we used to see some impressive tumble weed storms around there each year when I was a kid. Kids love them because its a big laugh to have them rolling across the highway hitting the car on windy days.

I grow two salt grasses in my landscape, Giant Sacaton and Sacaton alkali. I've got a long row of Sporobolus wrightii along my east border, its one of my favorites because of the size and the way the sun makes the seed heads glow. Both are great landscape grasses.




My urban landscape is just about full of plants at this point. I keep some areas left blank with gravel to define spaces but have discovered that space ran out fairly quickly.







The back is filled up too.


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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

s8, I am a purist at work, absolutely -- it's my job! At home, not that much. My landscape is about 60% native (unirrigated areas)/40% non-native. The non-native is mostly fruits, veggies, "interesting" plants (big fan of family Onagraceae, species pelargoniums, opuntia cactus, etc.), and antique roses, especially roses propagated from those found at pioneer homesteads and cemeteries (these can survive even here without irrigation, but won't bloom in summer without water).

I do agree with texaranger that in close urban quarters, there's a limit to what you can impose on your neighbors, and I think WoodsTea has a very good point, too. While I was thrilled to have a roving mountain lion spend a day lounging under a bush in the chaparral on my back hillside a few years back (October 1, 2010 -- funny how you remember certain days! -- he was unnoticed by me until I went to look for my cats that evening and found a much larger cat than I was seeking), I would hesitate to impose daily mountain lions on my neighbors (this is a 1970s tract development with 1/10 to 1/2 acre lots). And if only our lazy/clueless louts of neighborhood cats could or would do something significant about the roof-rats (non-natives, too, by the way)! They catch a few, but I have spent this entire winter and spring trapping them out of my attic, with at least one more rat to go, from what I hear. No, roof rats are not an improvement, at all; they are more a sign of imbalance and disfunction.

However, I very much agree with you that most native plantings, even ones that are not beautiful pictures of garden aesthetics like texasranger's yard in the photos above, are better than the vast majority of stuff usually planted in yards, and certainly more widely useful to a living community. At least one can save some water, avoid pesticides, provide some habitat for some native creatures -- but probably not a complete, self-functioning ecosystem.

When we lived in western Massachusetts for awhile, we had an acre and a half and a lot more leeway with how we managed our land. We also had a swamp and tons more mosquitoes and that was normal. If we had that many mosquitos here, county Vector Control would soon be visiting us with their little spray truck...Bat houses are great and actually work, if you are where there is food for bats. I get a few bats here, but mostly only hoary bats moving through in winter - this place is too dry for bats.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

Tom. your description of the state of affairs in Wisconsin have me shaking my head. I think the world would be worse off without the unique landscapes that
cover it. If I want to see a European hardwood forest, I can go to Europe. If I
want to see African savanna, I can on a safari. I personally enjoy that my neck
of the woods is different than someone in Appalachia or Thailand. It's what
makes each location special and unique. Why ought we turn Winsconsin into Kansas when we already have one of those? Politics aside, resource management should be about the management of ALL natural resources, not only those economically beneficial ones. Colorado is somewhat fortunate, the PARKS section of Parks and Wildlife operates pretty much outside the scope of the state legislature, which really, no matter WHO is in charge, tends to not care what's best for the resource nearly as much as whats best for their pocket book.

The WILDLIFE part of it, however, must have any changes approved by the folks sitting under the "Golden Dome" so they tend to be much more ham-stringed when it comes to implementing their goals. We do what we can, but, really, money is a constant and overwhelming issue. I am proud of the fact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife is able to operate, and operate well, WITHOUT any input from the general fund. But tight budgets are not easy on anyone, no matter who you work for.

As for home landscaping, my primary goal, too, is to create something that looks beautiful. I see the plants we choose really as a medium. People can create beautiful artwork using oil paints or with a camera. Native vs. exotic plants in our landscaping is the same principle. One of the big problems I see with trying to re-build lost habitat in the suburban yard is scale. Having overgrown rabbitbrush, patchy "doughnuts" of bunchgrasses, and partially dead perennials works out great in a REAL prairie, where these things are blend in and "fit" because of the massive scope. In a 1600 square foot lawn, the small area makes dead grass and huge, rangy shrubs look out of place.

I don't so much worry about what the neighbors think, heck we live next door to an abandoned house that I'm fairly certain is where they're going to film the remake of Jumanji. I DO care about what I think though, and if ten years in the Army made me anything, it's anal lol. I want my yard to look nice because clutter and messes are annoying. So yes, I remove dead leaves and sticks, I cut back and divide grasses and perennials, and I I don't simply allow "volunteers" to grow wherever they darn well please. I'm not building an ecosystem, I'm landscaping my home. I do prefer to plant things that are native, and I enjoy the little bit of nature they invite to my yard, but, like you said, Catspa, my yard is NOT nature. Sure, I love seeing the native pollinators and birds that I attract, but they are more like guests than room mates.

Texas Ranger, your yard is stunning! I only WISH mine was as beautiful!

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texasranger2

Zach, does your next door look anything like this? The darkness is 30 feet high. I call it the Big Dark Wall of Creepy or Lazy Man's Yard or Life Without People or worse names, depending on my mood. I abhor this kind of chaos, sloth, inconsideration, laziness & neglect. The birds like roosting up there on the roof in the hole where the chimney used to be before a tree branch knocked it off the house (the bricks still lay on the sidewalk up front) and the squirrels like getting into the open corner up by the roof where another tree limb knocked the siding off several years back. The trees and trumpet vine growing into the windows and under the siding are appreciated by some form of wildlife. It sounds like drums banging the house on windy days as nature has her way unimpeded by humans.

Its hard to see in the picture because its so dark over there but the blue plastic ice chest to the right in the dark background has set there filled with old moldering logs to keep the dogs from digging and going under the really nice hog wire fence which used to be lined with tree branches piled up 4ft high for the same reason, to keep the dogs in. I scratched myself all up one day in a fit of anger and leaned over the hog wire to pull them all out and then spent weeks disposing them in my weekly trash pickup. The faded blue ice chest fills with water so I knock it over, days later its sitting up again. This has been going on now for years, like a little war.

Its hard to decipher what plants there. Privet, European Honeysuckle, Ivy, Vinca Major and volunteer Hackberry trees, various weeds, patches of bermuda and some unknown other types of trees in various stages of growth play a big role along with the tall tangled mess of stuff growing in the pond which is not maintained, all I know is the pump hasn't been heard in years and its evil looking. The garage door is always left open and about 10 feral cats go in and out all day long. Numbers are becoming alarming.

By the way, we don't build bat houses here, there's always been lots of bats and dry land toads too. They were here before I ever thought of going native plants or the place next door turned into an urban blight.

Wider shot

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s8us89ds

Texas Ranger, the photos of your yard are just awesome. It doesn't surprise me that you're an artist by trade. Your yard is a work of art.

As for your description of your neighbor's yard, that is the funniest thing I've read in at least a week. I was laughing out loud.

I may talk a good game about being a crazy neighborhood nuisance, but I'm nothing like your neighbor. My house is relatively well-maintained (although not perfect). The front yard is tidy, even though I use leaf litter as mulch (which actually can occasionally be seen elsewhere in my neighborhood). My lawn area has a few patchy spots, but it's mowed and raked every 1 to 2 weeks. My back yard is a jungle, but it's fenced and the hardscape is tidy. A few cats prowl around my property, but they're not all mine, and our garage door is always closed. A few of my gutters are too high for me to reach, but the rest are clean, as is my roof. I don't let vines grow on my house and I don't have a single tall weed visible to the rest of the neighborhood. I still enjoy "pushing the envelope" of what is considered normal, but I'm not looking for a dilapidated or unmaintained property. Strange and wild doesn't have to mean sloppy or broken.

As for politics, I don't follow them. Unless we ever have a real Greens party in this country, then I'll probably have to join them. Otherwise, I think this is a great conversation!

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texasranger2

Just remember, as you said, yours are only 7 years old. Just give it time. This took 20 years to form and in the beginning the guy did work on it when he wanted a 'natural woodland' and installed the pond etc. Later his enthusiasm waned. There used to be a privacy fence along that side blocking the view as it matured into this current nightmare of dense growth that would cost thousands to clean up. The fence was finally uprooted by trees growing along the property line where the soil is now 2 to 3 feet higher than it is on our side from years of dirt washing down and collecting along it and the thick roots that form an impossible to deal with property line. We just got 3 estimates for trimming this year. $1500 and at that, its a temporary fix at best.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, your garden is beautiful. Is that a yucca in the center of the last photo of your first set of photos ("back"). Never met a yucca I didn't like. And you have the alkali sacaton, too,

I thought my former neighbors were bad, but yours look a lot worse. While there was an actual rat trail running from their garage and under the fence into my yard, there wasn't near the level of decay and spillover weediness you are confronting. However, when we moved in, I did count 16 feral and stray cats in our yard one day. Using trap-neuter-return and concentrating on getting the females, it's now down to two of the old-timers, plus a new stray tom that showed up just a few weeks ago (he can't have kittens, so I'm not panicking).

I particularly hate privet -- birds spread the seed like crazy and I have to weed out hundreds of seedlings every year. I removed a dozen large privets from this yard within a month of moving in but some neighbors still have them. I sometimes think there should be a jail sentence for growing privet, since it's such an anti-social thing to do -- not too extreme a thing to say, I hope ;-).

Bats usually roost in loose tree barks and cavities (native, non-native, whatever), caves, and the attics of houses. If none of those are around, bat houses can attract them to become residents, but the main thing is flying insects.

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texasranger2

catspa, that is Desert Spoon, not a yucca. I've got some blue Yucca rostrata, not the yellow stripey kind which I don't care for, Yucca baccata & Twistleaf Yucca. I like all grasslike plants and especially like that repeating pattern of growth which works in well visually with the grasses. Around here texture is king over color. I have several Nolina microcarpa, 3 Desert Spoon plants, lots of hesperaloe and some cold hardy agave.

We saw rats here when we first moved in but none lately. Late at night I see possums and there is a visiting raccoon that walks up the driveway like its the most casual thing in the world. I used to say 'Boo' to the possum and he'd bolt but now he just stares at me nonchalantly reminding me of that pest control commercial with that guy dressed like a rat --- the woman says "I hate you" and he says "prove it" and keeps eating.

There's all sorts of bad neighbors. The guy is nice enough, a good neighbor otherwise but what is a good neighbor really? Personally, I have redefined it over the years. I usually keep the duct tape handy so I don't say anything. I quietly and regularly try to keep the mess down to a minimum, weed out volunteers, stare at his trees and mentally remove several branches or hope lightening strikes them down and then basically getting back to work on keeping it as minimal as I can, getting scratched up on an old cut off fence while trying to improve things along the border by digging and planting stuff like salvia greggi in masses. It has built up a kind of steady disgust over the years since I do his work and I'm not nearly as nice or laid back about certain attitudes as I used to be which is probably obvious (cough) and I should shut up since I have said too much already.

I'm still pondering the best solution about the cats. Did you have to pay for the neutering? When we called we found out the city no longer picks up cats because the problem is so overwhelming. A smell problem is becoming rather unbearable here in my yard if you get my drift and I've heard horror stories about trapping them. I have found that asking the neighbor nicely about doing anything about anything (and there are so many things) always results in him assuming a helpless limp body posture and whining something along the lines of "Gee I can't help it and don't know what to do" response that definitely requires I put lots of duct tape over my mouth along with a case of the shakes because whining along with stupidity and laziness is not something I deal with well either.

I've been stealthily killing privets (among other things) along the property line. No bad conscience at all. I cut them down and put stump killer on the tops of the stems, little by little so its not so noticeable. Privet is very invasive here along with Tree of Heaven, another one I am lethal with from across (or crossing) the property line. I sneak over when he's at work and dig out hackberry tree saplings regularly which is a lot of fun especially when its hot and humid. Yes, I am bad. All we need is one more tree, I call it years of SMACKDOWN.

At dusk it looks like a million bats fly out of the trees at once all over the neighborhood but I never see them otherwise. I really like watching that.

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s8us89ds

Texas Ranger, my neighborhood is a "wooded" community. When it was developed about 50 years ago, it was converted from logging land. For decades, it had been continually planted with native Yellow Pines with a mix of volunteer Oaks, Gums, and other native hardwoods worth harvesting. When the properties were developed, they made sure to keep as many mature trees as possible. So on my quarter-acre lot, I'm fortunate to have nearly a canopy of a dozen tall native trees in a handful of species that are 50-75 years old. And most nearby properties have this. This kind of development is common in suburban Houston. I should also add that Houston is perhaps the most important large city in the U.S. for bird migration in North America.

I poke fun at my "wild" approach to suburban landscaping, but it's anything but unplanned. My property requires less maintenance than my neighbors, but yet I spend much of my free time maintaining and enjoying it. Trees are a desirable thing in this locale. But unlike most of my neighbors who are clueless about ecology, I'm landscaping to enrich and care for our little piece of the forest. Most of my neighbors are slowly degrading and destroying theirs through erosion, aliens, tree-cutting, hardscape, brush-clearing, and expanding of turf grass.

As for Privet, I agree it's evil. Keep on smacking it down! That's good for the world.

As for outdoor cats, they are terrible for wildlife. I'm embarrassed to have 2 of them and am slowly working on correcting that situation. Any neighbor hosting feral cats needs the assistance of Animal Control. It's a crime to have dozens of cats roaming a property. My aging parents had a long, funny story with that (I'll save it for another time). Cats breed prolifically, so the problem has to be nipped in the bud. If your neighbor won't let you help him round up the cats with cages, then Animal Control is the next option.

Catspa, I may try bat houses one of these days.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Nell, I can only assume you misunderstood what I was talking about in that little side trip into politics I made up yonder. I was most definitely not talking about federal govt. Evidently, you are one of the lucky few who don't know what bozo in a suit and tie I reference. So be it.

TR, I've said it before but it bears repeating....your landscaping is a picture of utter success. I remember a trip some years back to Albuquerque wherein I discovered for the first time in my life how cool a desert environment can be. Took a little side trip up into the foothills in and around the abandoned mines of Madrid. Fantastic sights abounded.

Finally, while I do get annoyed at the half-baked prairie purism that has crept into "native landscaping" in my area, it is nevertheless a good thing that we and others are installing this bits and pieces of that plant community. It does attract and support a slightly different and important group of insects and other wildlife. I just don't like it up on a pedestal is all.

+oM

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, about feral cats, around here we have multiple non-profit groups (Feral Cat Foundation, Forgotten Felines, etc. -- I donate to several of them) who will help with advice, capturing, funds for spaying/neutering, taking care of feral colonies, and more. This site has a list, by state, of such groups: feral cat help. If there is no group for where you are, there is also a national organization, Alley Cat Allies, that might also be helpful: Alley Cat Allies help page. Around here there are vets, too, who will do spay/neuters for reduced rates outside of the feral cat networks, but there you have to get informed and get everything organized yourself -- this is what I did, as a sort of "pro bono" project.

s8, Animal Control is generally a poor solution to feral cat problems (plus, as texasranger said, his city's Animal Control has stopped picking up cats because they are overwhelmed). Before we arrived, that was what one neighbor was doing: trapping the cats and taking them to the animal shelter, where, of course, they were killed. You can see how "successful" that neighbor's strategy was: 16 cats in my yard alone! Why that approach doesn't work is that it simply leaves an opening for another cat to move in, since cats are territorial and undefended territories are soon filled by more cats. It becomes sort of an endless task -- new, fertile females moving in and giving birth to new kittens (who, being related, will tolerate each other in the same territory...) until they happen to be caught and on and on. Plus, there is always some kind-hearted soul around giving these cats food and keeping the whole thing going (an absolute rule for everyone should be that if you are going to feed a female cat, it is your obligation to make sure the cat is spayed -- otherwise, don't feed it!) .

With trap-neuter-return, the cat is made infertile, then returned to the same area, where it keeps new cats from moving in. Once you get all the females spayed, the colony ceases to increase and over time will decrease due to natural mortality. Eventually you may have a cat or two around, filling and defending the territory, but one is a lot less damaging to the environment than 16, for sure. This a well-documented pattern, all over the country, and is exactly what happened here.

As long as some people are irresponsible about getting their animals "fixed" (and I can guarantee there will be some, forever), this is going to be a problem and trap-neuter-return is the sensible, ecology-based solution, as well as being the kindest. I sure do hope there is a group doing this work in your area, texasranger, who might help out.


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s8us89ds

Catspa, that's great advice. And there are probably other creative solutions to make a habitat unwelcoming for cats. I have been very successful at reducing my property from a haven for 4+ cats to a haven for 3 cats by diligently hollering and chasing away one particular bad guy every time I see him. He eventually stopped coming back.

And not to take anything away from your excellent recommendation, but I feel like doing a little critical thinking, so here comes a gentle shot across the bow on this topic. The only problem with catch-neuter-return is it doesn't really address the underlying problem in the long run. If there are 16 cats finding food, water, and shelter in a particular habitat, neutering will keep them from creating 5,000 kittens...which is a massive improvement...but it still won't rid that property of the potential habitat for 16 cats. Even if all 16 are neutered and returned, they could happily live 10 more years on that property. And when they die off, the habitat is still there, inviting any other strays, and the problem can return. In fact, as the colony drops from 16 to 15 to 14, each opening may be filled by an immigrant. And unless someone is counting/tagging the population, even 1 fertile immigrant could repeat the cycle unless found and neutered. I'll throw in the words "population demographer" because it sounds cool. :) But the ultimate solution is to remove the habitat. Eliminate the sources of food, water, and shelter or actively defend the territory. Cats are cute, by the way. And with that, I see my lunch break is over so it's back to work for me. :)

Keep up the awesome conversation, everyone!

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

s8, the theoretical "new" spaces created by the death of a colony member tend to not be filled because the other cats will generally drive an unfamiliar newcomer out of their territory. An exception might be if a super aggressive tom comes along who fights and defeats the existing alpha male and takes over (but, as I implied earlier, I worry about the toms less, since they don't have kittens). My current new stray tom is able to hang around because he is young and the existing one is getting old and feeble and diligently avoids confronting him.

The colony also reduces much faster than you might think, since feral cat lifespans are relatively short (around an average of 5 years, in my experience), given the lack of vet care for them. Here, in particular, distemper is endemic, so genetically susceptible, unvaccinated cats die off fairly quickly, plus some of them are infected with FIV and/or feline leukemia, which also shorten their lives. I have sadly witnessed, from a distance, the deaths of many of the former colony (they are nearly impossible to catch to have treated or euthanized, even when close to death) and buried more than a few.

The two that remain of the original colony are now about 11 and 12 years old respectively and were apparently blessed with both good luck and good genes and they are related: one is an uncle to the other. (I am the "population demographer" around here and could draw you a complete geneological chart for the colony!) Spayed females are kept track of by cutting off the end of one ear (called "tipping"), which is done when they are spayed. So, if a new female shows up (not so common, since females tend to stay where they were born and not wander -- a new one is most likely to have been abandoned by someone), you can tell by her untipped ear.

What you say, though, about not creating habitat in the first place, is certainly the ideal approach, but unfortunately not likely to happen in the context of whole neighborhoods with lots of different people with different ideas living in them. So we have this sort of "Rube Goldberg" way of dealing with the situation...

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texasranger2

Remove the habitat? Really? I discovered cats love both grasses and sand, both of which I have a lot of and no dogs, not that the tired looking dogs next door do anything but look at them. I've heard pets become like their masters and in this case its true. When we first hauled in piles of sand for drainage the place became the neighborhood kitty litter box on day one. Once we got it spread out, the gravel on and plants established it wasn't quite so bad but its never let up altogether. Someone is feeding them I suspect and letting them roam. There is a white manx with a bob tail and now there are 3 others with bob tails all of a sudden so perhaps this is a litter grown up? Or two? Starting last year it seemed there was a boom in #'s from maybe 3 or 4 to about 12 or 14.

Yelling does not work. Period. Neither does throwing pebbles but its satisfying to do. My poor single female neighbor to the east is loosing sleep every night as they hang out outside her window making a ruckus and wake her dogs up in the early morning hours who start barking like crazy.

I looked this up but didn't read anything about how the neutering actually works concerning territory etc, that was interesting catspa. Here there are large colonies at Lake Hefner. The city's policy used to be to capture and kill but now they neuter and release back into the area. Like I said, we are still checking around to find options available.

wiscon, that attitude is still stumping me and its irritating, I can empathize with the exasperation. You might appreciate this for upside down and backwards local policies. I researched to see if I had any legal recourses concerning the neighbors woody brush, trees and slovenly neglect. It is perfectly legal to do what he is doing. On the other hand, I am technically in violation should anyone wish to make an issue or retaliate. The city's ordinance for tall weeds and grasses states that ANY tall grass or weeds over a certain height must be cut or the city will come out and cut it down and bill you. If they wanted to or if any of the neighbors complained they could force me to trim down my prairie plants and fine me If I didn't and keep issuing citations eventually landing me in court. What this amounts to is this. I live in a place that was originally prairie with no trees but its me who would get the citation for violations, not the overgrown aggressive tree situation with neglected property lines.

I remember when I was admiring the prairie landscape at the History Museum and commenting to the grounds keepers. I asked who designed it and they said "Ya mean them weeds?" and rolled their eyeballs. I know what attitudes would be.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I got a warning from the city when my front yard rye cover crop was about four feet tall, but I have heard that generally the city is fairly open to native plantings and one can usually make a successful case on appeal. I think my problem was more that the rye looked to them like an overgrown lawn, which I think is understandable. As it happened, I got the warning the same week I had planned to cut the rye down, so it was never followed with a citation. The code calls out "rank weeds and grass" over 10 inches in height as a nuisance violation, but does not specify what qualifies as a weed (or a grass for that matter). Also prohibited are "fallen limbs or brush from greenery".

I've got some big bluestem out back, would love to see them try to cite me for growing our state grass.

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texasranger2

OT alert..

Woods Tea, Since you brought it up where'd you get your bluestem? Did you plant seed or did you buy plants? I'm disappointed this year in #'s of volunteer seedlings, the May floods, constant clouds and unusually cool temps are most likely to blame and I think there must have been some seed rotting because I sowed a lot. I was hoping to get several volunteers of Prairie Blue and Blue Heaven. Also, an update on my comment I made on another post as to these named types coming true from seed. It seems to be the case with 'The Blues' 'Prairie Blue' and the local genotypes but the Minn Blue 'Blue Heaven' has resulted in several much taller, floppier lighter blue volunteers. Some are true, others not. True is an almost turquoise coloring with thick short compact leaves. I thought it was interesting to discover. So far I am delighted with the 'Los Lunas' bred in New Mexico, a nice color and very robust. I do think they will stay stiffly vertical but time will tell, its when they put out seed stalks that you find out whether they will lodge or not.

Another observation. 'Blonde Ambition' is a lot taller than the regular blue grama. I mean, a whole lot taller with both leaves and seed stalks. I rather like the lowly plain jane's better.

Absolutely, I have little doubt someone would probably turn me in if I grew a cover crop. A nearby addition, issued fines for tall grasses during the daily rain during the May flood. The swells who live a block away in _________ addition are very strict. Me, I live in the cheap seats in______addition so I can get away with a bit more leniency. The poor people in "Mow it or Else" addition appealed saying they were dying to mow but it was too wet and raining when they were off work but it made no difference. They gave them 3 days or else, no exceptions.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I'm afraid I haven't tracked the sources very well. I know that I ordered 'Blue Heaven' and 'Prairie Blues' in the end of season SRG sale last year, but I have yet to see them grow through a whole season and I can't remember which ones were planted where. I also have some that I got from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, not a named cultivar, as well as some seed that I just scattered in front that I got from kansasnativeplants.com (the owner sources that from eastern KS). I'll guess we'll just see how things go and edit as necessary later.

I wouldn't be surprised if all of them were floppy this year with all the extra rain.

The bluestem out back that I mentioned is big bluestem, and again I'm not sure where that came from. I hadn't decided where to put it last year so just potted it up into larger containers and left it to overwinter. I figured it would probably die, but as soon as it started to come to life this spring I planted it, seems to be doing really well on a slight west-facing slope on the back side of the rain garden berm. It should be nice in late afternoon sun, but I'm expecting a lot of flop this year.

As for blue grama, the one bunch I have -- which I planted from seed last summer -- is tall, maybe up to three feet in height. It's in rich soil though and facing a lot of competition from its neighbors. There's a little more of it mixed with buffalo grass in the main yard, but I have mowed this a couple of times this year. It's hard to say how much of it survived the winter, mostly all I see is the buffalo grass.

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s8us89ds

Catspa, you've sold me on the capture-neuter-and-release. But neither you or Texas Ranger can sell me on the prospect of cats that can't be scared away. I've never met a cat that I can't scare away. And quickly. Just walk at them quickly and determinedly with a little adrenaline pumping and start making very loud and abrupt clapping and shouting noises as you get closer and closer. They will look at you, their eyes will widen, then they will bolt like hell. Do it the first time you meet them. Whenever you see them again, you don't have to try nearly as hard - they will remember you from their first encounter. Just keep repeating this formula and they eventually won't come back. If you're not the type to shout or clap or make mean faces, put on a pair of sunglasses and get one of those small air horns they blast at sporting events. Just walk at them quickly and start blasting that horn as you get close and they'll get the hint.

As for cats that are impossible to capture, that doesn't seem like much of a challenge either. If folks can catch squirrels and possums and rats and any other mammal simply by using a cage trap and a little peanut butter...I'm sure cats will fall for it, too. Just put out a little stinky fresh salmon and set the spring trap. Snap. One down. 15 to go. :)

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texasranger2

I guess I should start camping out there all night every night.

Yes, they always run off when I yell, shoot with the bb gun or throw pebbles or just see me come out there for that matter, that part is definitely easy. Trapping is an option I am well aware of but I've read some things that sound pretty terrible concerning that.

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s8us89ds

I think you may be enjoying your defensive duties a little too much. :) lol

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger -- you have heard several terrible things with using a Havahart (live capture) trap? Please tell what you have heard -- I haven't heard many horror stories, with responsible use, though I do know of one raccoon that died in one (same homeowner who was trapping cats and taking them to the shelter to be killed). And, of course, the trap needs to be closely monitored (like every 15 minutes) while trapping is underway, for the safety of the trapped cat, which needs to be moved to a safe, quiet place as soon as possible after being trapped to await spaying.

From my experience it mostly requires patience, because it seems like you never catch the cat you want right off (who is somehow always the smartest and most trap-wary cat) and you catch the dumb one you don't want as many as half-a-dozen times because he's the one that will do anything for tuna -- even spend some time in a trap, apparently. There is also the risk of catching a raccoon or possum (or skunk!) instead.

Sounds like you might have a family group going there in the neighborhood, texasranger. Manx cats aren't all that common, but the tail-less trait is genetically dominant (though not completely dominant -- i.e., some will have no tails, some with short tails of varying lengths), so kittens have good odds (50/50 at least) of being tail-less to some degree with one Manx parent.

That infernal fighting at all hours is the best argument for getting males neutered, even though they don't have kittens. Doesn't eliminate all fights (neutered males will still defend territory), but reduces them, and also stops those long episodes of love-lorn, midnight yowling by males looking for females in the spring.

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texasranger2

What I heard was that they sometimes go berserk in the cage and hurt themselves etc. My sister told me she's seen cats panic and get bloody frantically trying to get out more than once and seen them maul themselves up. She thinks its cruel but she's one of those softer hearted types who can't see a stray without getting emotional or tempted to take it in, feed it, neuter or spay and keep it. It did rather put me off the trapping idea or at least filled me with dread, IYCI.

The manx cat is the one I dislike the most. Hate is getting close. He is the color of a dingy, dirty white dishrag and has a smirky personality and manner that sets my teeth on edge. Cocky looking, entitled. Its caught a squirrel and killed 2 baby birds so far and there is just something about it, its hard to describe. I think it would be one of those smart cats that is trap savvy if any of them are. The other manx cats look nicer but I know who they came from, a black and a part black one, gotta be the case. There's 3 long tail blacks, two have some white. It can't be coincidence though about the bob tails, there is another cat with a half tail. I bet its that DISHRAG thats responsible for most of the problem -- that one I have distinguished as fluffy-enemy #1. There's so many striped ones its hard to tell how many of those there are, they all look alike. The others have markings so you can count them. I went out the other day and cat meeting was going on. About 9 or 10 of them clustered together that ran off when I came out. Ticked me off something terrible.

That last line was funny catspa, made me laugh. Otherwise, none of this has been particularly funny.


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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Yes, cats can get pretty desperate and crazy when trapped and it is hard to see. Covering the trap with a cloth cover (old sheet or towel) as soon as possible and keeping them covered usually calms a cat down, make them feel hidden and safer.

I'm angry, too, about the situation that is developing there (and I'm at least half a continent away!) -- 9 or 10 cats hanging out together like that is not a good thing. Your neighbor is setting up a nasty and eventually cruel situation that will have an impact on every neighbor around him. If nothing else, it will be sad to witness. By now I'm fairly, calmly resigned to the various idiocies of humanity, but this is one that still gets my goat, every time. Does sound like Mr. "Dishrag" may be the top male as they usually do have an attitude -- it's what got them to the top.

I had to smile about WoodsTea's rye crop in the front yard -- four feet tall and a note from the city! I once got a warning like that from a young (first week on the job) community service officer about the "dead shrubs" in our front yard. First of all, they weren't shrubs, they were herbaceous perennials. Second, they weren't dead: what he was seeing was the dried flower scapes of Oenothera organensis, a rare evening primrose from the Organ Mountains in New Mexico (and a good one, too, very drought tolerant, long-blooming, great garden plant). I was waiting for the fruits to dry up so I could collect the seed as it is no longer in commerce. It is a long-lived perennial, but I like to have seed to share and "just in case", since it would be extremely difficult to replace otherwise. And it was November, for pete's sakes -- lots of stuff with dead leaves around, even in California! I wrote him back, letting him know all this, plus that, at the time, this species was on the candidate list for federal listing as endangered or threatened. Got an apology back, warning withdrawn. Added to his experience, no doubt.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

All municipalities must work off the same set of rules. amazingly consistent wording....like an ALEC-led statehouse compared to another ALEC-led statehouse, lol! But yes, some cities have become a bit more enlightened.....just a bit.

Must confess, I missed the part of this thread that turned it over to feral cats, but in my very neighborhood, the problem is not so much feral cats as cats which have stupid owners. How did it ever become universally acceptable to let your cats go free-range? Now I have to admit, I'm not the biggest cat guy in the world, not even in the top seven billion, lol! But I've heard even good friends say so much idiotic stuff about their rationales for letting their cats eat song birds (the birds were asking for it, this is "natural selection", blah blah) that I know for certain, people are not getting any smarter.

+oM

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s8us89ds

Allegedly coyotes eat cats. Maybe the solution to outdoor cats is to introduce more coyotes back into our neighborhoods. :)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

s8, coyotes do eat cats (as do foxes -- I lost a cat to a fox once) and that IS the fundamental solution to the over-abundance of meso-predators in suburbia that I mentioned above. However, whenever top predators come into yards and grab someone's poodle or such, people get upset. (Happens fairly frequently in the Bay Area here -- we have many coyotes and mountain lions living next to, and sometimes in, urban/suburban areas -- more than most people realize. In the course of my field work I have frequently seen lion prints and fresh lion deer-kills. One kill, made within an hour or two of me coming upon it, was at a site surrounded by nice expensive houses and about a third of a mile from the local Safeway -- lion could have walked down and bought himself a steak!) So, not going to happen, the top predators that do that and advertise their presence generally end up getting shot.

On my family ranch, which was remote, the barn cat colony was pretty much left to regulate itself, but there was no feral cat problem, since any cat that left the immediate protected area around the house and barns was toast.

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texasranger2

Checking around, I can get a trap for around $29. When we called they said you could rent a trap for $10 per week so seems like it would be better to just buy one. I don't think I could get them trapped in a week. I refuse to pay to have any cat neutered or spayed. I haven't planned past trapping as a plan, so far all I have as a option is Animal Control.

One concern I have is: Whats the difference between stray and feral? I can't really tell if people just let their pets run around or if these are really feral cats or both. Another question is, how big of an area do cats roam in, I mean, if a person were to put out notices how far out is that? Thats another idea that fills me with dread. I am not an outgoing person.

I talked to the guy across the street. He had a litter of kittens occur in his garage last year. He said he gathered them up once they were weened and took them out to the country. I am not judging, just reporting what he said.

Oddly, but not surprisingly, on my walk there was a car parked up the block with a sign on the window that said "Someone is trapping cats in our neighborhood, if you know who it is report them". I quietly applauded and will let others get outraged over it. I'm not saying a word because I don't want to get into a discussion with zealous animal lovers where I am going to be seen as Adolph Eichmann. Personally I have no fondness for cats myself but I do try to keep a balanced attitude when it comes to pragmatic approaches and if someone else is on this I'd be full of gratitude, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mouth shut.

A previous development last week. A woman knocked at the door handing out notices of her lost "fat siamese cat who got loose, please don't corner him, just call this number _________". We talked a bit and she was quite distraught over it. I told her about the strays and how cats seem to gravitate to my yard and I'd keep an eye out. I never did.

4 ft into the neighbors yard where I'm keeping the jungle at bay is as far as I will go since I get scratched on the fence trying to do it from my side. I've never gone actually into the yard but I'm really dying to go check into that always cracked open door of the garage to see if there's cat food dishes in there. I won't of course just like I've never ventured over to the creepy pond but those cats are always going in and out.

What a mess.

I'm curious s8 exactly where you would get the coyotes in the first place & how you'd release them? Would you go out in the wild, gather some up and bring them in or what? You do have some odd ideas as magic bullets to solve problems but they don't seem quite worked out.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

It wouldn't surprise me. A friend of mine had a housemate when she first moved to Portland, OR who used to feed feral cats from silver dishes. He seemed to enjoy it as a subversive act, but exactly who he was subverting wasn't clear to her.

I actually like cats pretty well, but I don't think I personally would ever own one unless I had a big old house with plenty of mice. It always bums me out to see 100% indoor cats looking longingly out the window, watching life go by. At the same time I understand why letting domestic cats loose isn't a good option ecologically. Generally I view cat owners as being self-centered.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

My strong advice to you, texasranger, would be to not proceed with a trap, at all, until you have a better grasp on what the whole situation is and certainly not until you know what is a feral and what is a stray and what is a neighborhood cat who's just hanging out (possibly in large numbers).

A feral is a cat that has never been socialized to humans, i.e., wasn't handled by a human in its first 6 to 8 weeks of life. Kittens born to a feral mother will behave pretty much like any domestic cat if you can catch them within that critical first 2 or so months of life. In fact, I have a pair that I cat-napped from a feral mother at 4.5 weeks old that I would classify as hyper-domesticated; my husband calls them "metrosexual cats" :-) -- they are very loving and follow me around all day long, for 10 years now.

A stray is a cat that once belonged to a human family and is human-socialized, but somehow became separated from them. Both ferals and strays (or a neighbor's cat) may be very shy of strange humans, but their behavior and the look in their eyes are quite different. I can usually tell within a few minutes which is which, but I have interacted with all kinds of cats my entire 60 years of life (have never not had a cat).

Yes, whether or not there are food dishes in the garage is important to know, as well as how your neighbor regards those cats. Is he just a clueless feeder of cats (if there is food in there) or does he consider these his pets? If they are not his pets, do at least some belong to someone else and, if so, to whom? Does your town limit the number of cats people may keep as pets? (ours does)

Around here, domestic cats don't travel more than about a block or so -- the most distant visitor to our yard ("Boris", a Russian blue) comes here from about 4 houses away. (My domestic cats, by the way, are confined to our backyard -- there are ways to build a fence that your average, not-very-motivated cat can't get over -- it's respectful of neighbors, but also keeps them from getting hit by cars or running into neighbors who are of the opinion they can do whatever they want to a cat on their property.)

Having lived in the country and been on the receiving end of unwanted pets, and being an ecologist, I can and will judge your neighbor who took the kittens to the country: what he did was cruel and stupid and reveals his doubtful character perfectly, to me. Far better for him to have taken them to Animal Control to be euthanized, if that was the only option -- it would have been the kindest thing to do, for sure.

I'm guessing you have no animal rescue group in your area that can help? This is really something that, if done, should be done in an informed way. Otherwise, there is significant potential for cruelty and harm (especially if these are not really ferals and are someone's pets), the burden of which I personally wouldn't want to carry, even if legal (something else to check). Before I carried out my own program here, which didn't even involve the killing of cats, I had observed what was going on for at least a year and pretty much knew how all those cats related to each other and the neighborhood.

I guess all this about feral cats, since they are an animal version of "aliens", is more or less on-topic for this thread... ;-).

Luigi and Bella, born feral, now the exact opposite of that:



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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

WoodsTea, au contraire! A self-centered person would do much better with a dog, since nobody is ever going to be the center of any cat's universe. My current pair don't even come when called half the time, and they are the most attentive, least independent of all the cats I've ever had... ;-)

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I beg to differ on cats roaming range. I lived in the country, but I doubt cats actually differentiate...and when I was growing up my cat was seen at up to five miles range, though he was home every day. Never underestimate the feline! I also don't believe in letting ANY pets roam unattended (be they dogs or cats). It's not safe for the animals and it's not being very sociable to neighbors that may not care to be bothered with your animals.


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texasranger2

Oh boy. This puts me right back in 'What to do' mode where I've been since I realized in early spring there was a situation and started doing the math. What to do has been the big question and I've tried to think of good solutions but kept coming back to the same starting point again.

The woman at my door with the lost cat added a dimension to the picture. Previously I thought of it as just part of the sloth problem next door. I felt real bad for her.

My problem neighbor has two dogs and, no, he doesn't have the cats as pets, they are rather like the trees, a result of not caring about the long range picture. His garage is a detached type. He has a door on the single section of stockade fence that he comes in when he gets home which is closed when he's home but otherwise left to swing and bang in the wind. Totally typical of him. There is a regular type door inside the backyard to the garage and its where he keeps the lawnmower, otherwise I never see him enter it. Its always open a crack except sometimes when the wind is blowing and it slams shut. I almost saw a cat cut in half one day when it happened which made me laugh(sorry). I don't think the latch works.

Anyway, this is the first year I've noticed the cats going in and out of there like this and hanging around in my yard in such significant numbers. I think the garage is a shelter they've adopted as their own. There was a terrible dead smell coming from the yard about 3 weeks ago. A cat? Heck if I know, I didn't investigate. Talking to this person is a waste of time which we both found out over the years on several issues, we've been next door 20 years now.

If anything is to be done we will have to be the ones to do it. I do know that years ago he fed what we all called the striped neighborhood cat that seemed to belong to no one but wasn't a problem, back then it was just the one.

I thought posting notices on doors might be a good idea. If I do get a trap, and I was about 90% there because of the smell if nothing else, I thought that would serve as fair warning and put the responsibility where it belongs, thats why I was wondering how big to make the circle. Frankly there are some houses a couple blocks away we don't really want to approach. This is inner city and its mixed with good and bad streets which can vary by the block and it also draws attention to me as a possible target should anything happen to someones pet not even related to me.

It does sort fit into alien smackdown in my opinion. They aren't native thats for sure.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

If you do decide to go the trap/animal control route, texasranger, I think it does put an extra onus of care and diligence on you. With trap-neuter-return, even if you do get a pet by mistake, it's basically "no harm, no foul". But if you are sending a cat, possibly a pet, off to near-certain death at Animal Control, it's another matter entirely. Fair warning seems at least fair, but like you say, may make you a target.

Here, even if not his pets, your dufus neighbor could likely be cited for "harboring a nuisance", if nothing else. (and the dead animal smell could well have been a cat) What are your municipal codes like?

I wouldn't doubt a cat traveling that far in the country, dbarron, especially if it was an un-neutered tomcat. Those guys, in particular, will go miles, looking for gals. This is about a dog, but an uncle of mine had a locally famous, unusual line of yellow McNabs (a sheepherding dog line originating in Mendocino County, usually black and white color). The original dog's name was "Gyp" and my uncle used to win sheep trials with him at the fair. Local ranchers would get together on holidays like Memorial Day and inevitably someone would say, "I see your Gyp came by to see my dog," the tip-off being a yellow pup in an otherwise black-and-white litter. Since my uncle was the ranch-hand in the middle of a 10,000 acre sheep ranch and the other ranches were similarly large, old Gyp must have hiked miles during the night in search of romance, because, like dbarron's cat, he was home every day!

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Well, I am exaggerating a bit. My friends that are active in pet rescue are anything but self-centered. Maybe a bit myopic though.

Speaking of which... my girlfriend and I were walking her dog early in our relationship and passed a yard with a very narrow hell strip that had been filled with a low-growing shrub of some sort. She thought the owners weren't being very considerate to put in such a planting that left no room for walked dogs to pee in. I found this somewhat astonishing. It had never occurred to me as a homeowner that I had any sort of responsibility to provide restroom space for dogs. I don't mind really, as long as the owners are responsible, but I'm certainly not going to maintain a lawn just for that purpose.

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texasranger2

The problem is I can't find anywhere that takes cats. I'm still looking, haven't done anything yet.

Woods Tea, I think since you are providing all those soft, inviting kitty toilets, meaning smack in the middle of any prairie grass, you have done your civic duty in providing pet restrooms. I discovered a little section of cactus cholla nestled in there will deter the problem and put up the 'Toilet out of Order' sign for any you wish to remain clean. Its important to remember them when the time comes to trim the grasses.

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s8us89ds

We have some good writers as well as good gardener/ecologists on this forum.

How far do cats roam? Most of the ones I've observed in suburbia stay within just 2 or 3 acres. I saw a study once where they tracked outdoor house cats with GPS-enabled collars. Aside from a few hours a day of dashing around, most cats lounge around. And stay pretty close to home. If they don't need to hunt or forage or find mates, life is good and there's no need risking uncomfortable tangles with automobiles, sprinklers, dogs, swimming pools, lawn mowers, mailmen, irate human neighbors, or enemy cats defending their turf.

How might we bring coyotes into the suburbs? Beats me. :) It was a half-joking, half-baked Hail Mary of an idea. I'm glad Catspa ran with it.

What do I recommend for dealing with the cats in your neighborhood, Texas Ranger? I think you're on the right track. Set a $29 trap, take them to get neutered - and the vet will know which ones have already been neutered/microchipped - and bring them home and release them where you caught them. The only downside is that neutering usually isn't cheap. To neuter 10 cats at $75 each...that's $750. I would start up a collection among your neighbors and save your receipts from the vet. Even if you only collect half the money...the mere mention that you're having to spend money out of your pocket to neuter feral cats will shame/guilt/scare/shock many of your neighbors into thinking, talking, and better dealing with the situation.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

The bad side of me wants to say, "haven't you guys ever heard of a well-placed bowl of antifreeze"? but that wouldn't be very nice. Heck, my wife screws up her face whenever I mention that possibility, and she is herself not at all a cat person, so probably a bad idea. I do hear it works though. And no, I have never done such myself. That said, I really, really resent all these stupid person's cats all over the neighborhood. I may call animal control yet, although that sets up the possibility of neighbor on neighbor strife. Not that you have to be identified, but it's bound to come out. They all spend time in and around my garage. It's a long story, but until I'm financially ready to rebuild my entire garage, it will remain as it is, with non-functioning doors.

+oM

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Just remember, proof is required to prosecute...don't leave any evidence if you were EVER thinking of potentially breaking the law..which I'm sure no one is.

Then again, if the illegal aliens are tresspassing, I'm not sure it's against the law. Especially as you are 'defending' your property from invasion. It's not illegal to kill mice and rats, and such unwanted vermin...it's not a long stretch to assume destructive former pet species, should be treated the same.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR, I'm not sure cholla would do too well up here in a regular garden bed with the rich soil and humidity. My hellstrip in particular has grown very dense this spring, starting to think about digging out some of the prairie dropseed so that things like the Baptisia bracteata can get air and light.

I rarely see any cats around here anymore, quite a change from a few years back. Not sure why that is. I did see a coyote late one night, quite a surprise this far into the city.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Don't know the laws where you folks are, but in CA, while feral cats are considered nuisances and can be killed at will, inhumane methods of doing so, whether on your property or not, can be (and have been) charged as animal cruelty, which carries both large fines and jail time. Killing someone else's domestic pet, humanely or not, potentially exposes a person to civil liability (again, own property or not), with the express exception of killing predators of livestock, in which case proper notices posted along the property line protect the property (or livestock) owner from civil liability.

While I have no problems with euthanasia, if that is what is necessary, I do have problems with people going about killing animals in stupid and cruel ways, even when it comes to killing mice and such. Those glue traps, for example, are a testament to an innate nastiness in some human beings (or gutlessness perhaps; if you are going to do it, do it in a quick, direct way -- I always use snap traps).

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

WoodsTea, correlation is not causation, but that coyote you saw might well be connected to a recent absence of roaming cats (and would fulfill s8's top predator fantasy ;-) ). The other thing that can happen is a wave of disease. This I know, again, from personal experience of about 40 years ago. My sister and brother-in-law (young, clueless, and lax about proper management of life in those days, as well as mostly broke) let their cats go un-neutered, with the number of cats quickly building up, past a dozen at least (much like texasranger's neighbor situation, sad to say, though all their cats were socialized). One cat brought some disease into the group (can't remember now what it was), all of which were unvaccinated against anything. Nearly all their cats were dead within months. It was very traumatic and they never let it happen again. Even when broke (their usual situation), they would find a vet who would do the neutering at a discount rate.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Catspa, just to be clear, I completely agree with your words regarding the cruelty of some animal control techniques, those glue traps being near the top of the list.

+oM

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texasranger2

Around here, as it is in most cities, the ordinances concerning dogs is very strict. A loose dog is not allowed and several running around would bring Animal Control in immediately. Loose cats are OK. If you even consider seriously the idea presented by s8, you might as well suggest we allow dog packs to serve as predators, after all, they are already here and we could simply unlatch fences and let nature take its course.

It seems obvious to me that in a densely populated place like a city a different set of methods for population control must be established for many obvious reasons. Humans by necessity must become the natural predators whether we like the idea or not and which results in places like Animal control and practices like euthanasia. No one likes to think of it but there are many violent things that go on in the wild that are not pleasant either. In urban situations we employ (or at least should) many human assisted methods of planting, eliminating and controlling plants whether we go native or not or admit it or not.

I don't think in terms of contests such as: score one for nature 1 -- humans 0. A little boy got killed in the naturally occurring flood day before yesterday and I find such notions repulsive.

If people make decisions based on soft heartedness, emotions or simply a fondness for their own personal pets we will end up in a situation of being controlled by policies that allow pests to coexist with us just so we can convince ourselves how humane we are. Special interest groups and many of the ideas about individual rights have gotten out of hand these days IMO. The suggestions made, one out of humane thinking, another that came across as flippant, that I pay for spaying and neutering a lot of peoples stray cats is absurd to me. I absolutely refuse to even entertain it or feel guilty about trying to eliminate a problem caused by irresponsible pet lovers.

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texasranger2

Hopefully so I don't come off as inhumane, when I donate money toward saving animals it is for preventing or changing policy on such things as this. There have been a few incomprehensible policies posted on this thread and I think this one is as crazy making as those are. This is legal around here and considered a popular sport based almost solely on misunderstanding and unfounded fears and ideas. Don't watch it if you are easily upset but preventing this is a cause I do think its worthy of spending my own hard earned money on.





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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I don't mind hunting, in fact I do it myself many times a year. The wanton waste and destruction of life that is present in your video is atrocious. The idea of "killing for fun" is tragic and the behavior of people who need to be examined.

Around here we don't have p-dog shoots, they live too close to peoples houses. Instead the County uses our tax dollars to plug up all the holes with news paper and gas them.

Keystone species like wolves are celebrated and worshiped with a cult like reverence but keystone species like p-dogs are blasted and gassed like vermin and their numbers continue to plummet as more of their habitat is gobbled up by urban sprawl. It wasn't long ago that wolves were treated the same way, maybe someday the attitude will change and we will be reintroducing "dog towns", but not in my lifetime.

Ironically, the federal, state, and local governments here have teamed up to save the black footed ferret from almost certain extinction, it's dependence on the p-dog colonies they regularly exterminate apparently notwithstanding.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, just to be clear, my top two suggestions to you were to look to see if there was a group in your area that does trap/neuter/return, not to personally pay for spaying or neutering. Around the SF Bay Area, we have numerous feral-cat groups that will do all the funding and all the work, plus we even have some county programs that will pay for spaying/neutering to mitigate feral cat problems. My last suggestion, do-it-yourself, would depend on how you felt about the overall situation and how motivated you were to follow that route.

Now knowing that you are not all that into cats, I wouldn't recommend it at all. I did it myself, in lieu of tying up resources of local rescue groups, because I could do it, could do it well, and, in the end, it only cost me the fees for three females, which solved the problem (much to my relief and overall improvement of life and local conditions).

Trap/neuter/return is NOT a way of showing "how humane we are" or being soft-hearted. It is actually a cold-hearted, calculating method based on ecological principles. The cats, once "fixed", are pretty much uncatchable for any other treatments and so usually die of treatable conditions, relatively young, and sometimes in prolonged and agonizing ways (personally and painfully witnessed by myself too many times; three times I was fortunate enough to catch the feral and shorten its suffering by taking it to be euthanized). Nature can, and will, take its course, using this method, and, as you note, it is often not pretty. What differentiates this method from "capture and kill" is that you don't leave a vacuum for new cats to fill (thus stabilizing the situation in your own neighborhood), plus the side-benefit of not killing a neighbor's pet (and maybe some little kid's beloved pet) by mistake. In other words, it is pragmatic and not particularly kind to the ferals.

Despite being a hard-hearted ecologist (who can appreciate the value of top predators while knowing they don't mesh well with modern human populations), I also loathe avoidable cruelty on the part of humans, whether deliberate or arising from stupidity and/or ignorance, because, unlike the other animals, we have no excuse for that.

It is unfortunate that your city or town seems to have few quality-of-life codes, texasranger. Here, that neighbor could be issued citations that would get him motivated, or else, on everything from the cats to the deteriorating house (an inspector in our town would likely soon be knocking on his door for what you described) and trashy yard.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

I agree with you both, texasranger and Zach; it's both ironic and incomprehensible, and tragic, what is happening to the prairie dog -- and straight under the eyes of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, too (who, in their defense, have been so badly defunded over the past 15 years that they can barely function). I also hunted, when young, but the mindless morons in this video seem to have no clue of the ethics I was taught about hunting.

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texasranger2

I learned some things and I thank you for what you wrote catspa, it was well thought out, backed up with personal experience & intelligent data by someone who obviously knows what they are talking about and I took it to be about suggesting choices out there, nothing else. I'm starting to suspect the choices differ from place to place but I imagine similar attitudes exist across the country.

I have a very bad habit. When I say 'you' I am usually speaking in the general 'you' , not the you specifically on the other end of the phone or internet. I was sharing some conflicting thoughts and paradoxical observations I have on the subject and it is a very difficult subject. I am personally neutral to cats, I don't love them, I don't hate them but I don't want a yard full of them either. I don't keep any pets but I did have a dog I loved several years ago.

I grew up in a family of responsible hunters and fishermen. I have no problem with hunting either. I have trouble with extreme close-minded attitudes toward guns like the NRA -gads! -I'm afraid to even go there THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT but I am more balanced and open to suggestions than they seem to be. I'm not a zealot in any direction no matter what the issue-- political, ecological or religious etc.

I am all for common sense however and think its lacking is many areas of policy making.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I have a great amount of respect for the USFWS, but, as you said, lack of funding prevents any meaningful gains. Unfortunately, too, their hands are often tied by states who fight tooth and nail to prevent anyone from protecting the land, lest it negatively effect business. My own state is currently embroiled over the listing of the sage grouse as T&E because, in a state that uses it's natural beauty as it's chief selling point, we value the interest of the oil and gas industry over that of the ecology. I understand the need for a healthy economy, but does that give us a carte blanche for destructiveness? I tend to believe not.


The attitude is not limited to big business or politicians either.

In a discussion about the sage grouse, I was told by someone "it's my land, I'll do whatever I damn well please with it!" I wonder if anyone told the sage grouse it's not their land they're living on? Last weekend, a hiker in the State Park smashed a pregnant rattlesnake with a rock, and presumably felt as though they were doing us all a favor by destroying it. On Wednesday, A man approached me to ask "are mountain lions really a big problem here?" I wanted to tell him "no, the lions are perfectly fine, it's attitudes like your's that are the problem." I held my tongue....

To be honest, the amount of disconnect between human beings and nature is astonishing and maddening. The longer I work in the field of conservation and ecology the more I feel like chicken little. You tell people that the sky is falling, but the can't be bothered with your inconvenience. The county will approve any and all development, when is the last time a burrowing owl paid it's "fair share" anyways?And I don't know if you've heard, but rattle snakes are deadly, viscous attack animals that murder our children in cold blood. If I knew how much faith I would lose in humanity I might have considered a different career.

So, I told you that story to tell you this one: Common sense and policy will always be mutually exclusive as long as the prevailing culture of this country echoes that of the man who told me "it's my land, I'll do whatever I damn well please with it!" After all, burrowing owls and sage grouse don't vote any more than they pay taxes.

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s8us89ds

This is a great conversation. Texas Ranger, relax and smile. It only gets better. :)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

"Relax and smile" about what, s8? You seem to be regarding this as some sort of easy intellectual entertainment, which to me it is not. I'm certainly not "relaxing and smiling" about topics as serious and complicated as the ones being discussed here. Your "recommendations" about what to do about the cats have shown, at several levels, a failure to grasp the depths and realities of these problems, while texasranger's responses and discussions have been both a serious and deep exploration of these issues which I have much appreciated.

Simply gathering up cats en masse, without fully understanding the cats or their situations (something which will take a while to sort out), and then passing the hat hoping to get donations from "guilted" neighbors after doing it (good luck with that!) is pretty much NOT a reasonable way to go about it. Going the TNR route also requires a willingness to have a colony still essentially living (and dying) in your vicinity for some years. (And I don't know about where you are, but spay/neuter fees are about double, minimum, here, compared to what you cite.) Texasranger's options are clearly more limited by available resources and recourses in that locale than where I live, making the problem even more difficult and needful of careful thought.

Zach, I hear you, on all points! I mostly deal with clients and contractors and, mercifully, not the general public, but still run into the same stuff. The client and/or contractor is "all in" for the environment and "doing it right", until it costs $$$, or they can't do what they want, then suddenly that's not such a priority. The general public would be astounded, around here, if they knew how many rattlesnakes and lion signs and such that field biologists actually see, often within stone throws of their housing developments. Even so, snake bites are not common and lion attacks virtually non-existant -- fancy that. On the other hand, those "cute", benign-looking bisons (just like cows, right?) have recently been doing a number on tourists who thought nothing of standing a few feet away from them for a photo...

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texasranger2

catspa, The more I check the more I am convinced that what we have here is not a feral colony. I think it is a litter that is grown up which is adding #'s to the other strays or peoples pets that they let run about which wander into my sandy yard as they always have. The sand attracts them as I mentioned. It wasn't something I would have thought of before we hauled it in, otherwise its been a great boon to my plants. Cats also seem to really like grasses. I see them eating out the tops from my upstairs window which answered the question "What the heck is this?" and they also like placing their little fannies on top dead center to leave a smelly surprise. Makes me livid when I see that because it looks so desecrated and targeted and its a regular occurrence. Like I said earlier, cholla sections are my solution, it works every time.

The Humane Society here has a program of TNR and accepts donations. You can take cats there and they then release them back into the area.

I guess what I am trying to get at is whether a situation of some strays is in the same category? From what I am reading it doesn't sound like what the Humane Society TNR program is aiming at. Someone is obviously feeding these cats because they have sleek fur and appear relatively tame. There is one very pretty longhair that I feel very sure is someone's pet which likes to nap in my yard. Stuff like that has never bothered me and its gone on for quite some time.

Update. I have not seen them going in and out of the neighbors garage for a few days. Not sure whats going on but there it is. Also I've seen a stray or two but not the onslaught of numbers I was seeing about three weeks ago every time I looked out the window. Of course that spot under my large shrub still smells to high heaven but with the sand the cats are gonna do what they are gonna do and they seem to like that spot. Are there any solutions for that? I'm doubting there are.

Remember, I did see that sign on that car..... Maybe???? Someone did....something?? I haven't seen Dishrag Cat in several days (fingers crossed)

There is also a clinic I found devoted to spaying and neutering pets. (pets, does it make a difference?) Anyway it is called Pet Angels Rescue. The price for a dog is $40-75 and $30 for a cat. There is a low income qualification that must be met however.

Zach, working with the public is always an exercise in patience. I am the type who needs a big roll of duct tape handy at all times. I am always too tempted with dead pan targeted answers. Snakes always get reactions that are out of proportion.

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s8us89ds

Please, let's none of us critique one another's suspected personal motivations for being involved in this discussion or levels of knowledge about any particular issues. That's out-of-bounds, in my opinion. This is a public gardening forum, free to all to participate, for any reason they want. Let's keep our discussions on topic and keep things friendly and positive for the sake of our fellow intelligent, knowledgeable, well-meaning gardeners.

And for the record, coyotes actually used to live in my community and were known to attack outdoor house cats when wild food became scarce. Unfortunately, with increased development, coyote sightings have diminished and I fear they're gone from my area.

Have a great weekend everyone. Enjoy what is hopefully nice weather in your area!

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I've personally seen a coyote tree a cat, sit till the cat comes down, grab cat and run away in the field with it. It does happen....and while I have had many pet cats mourned with mysterious disappearances in my boyhood, I see what the numbers are doing in many parts of the world now (Australia is a good example).
I fondly remember having chipmunks when I was young...haven't seen one in YEARS. Last one I saw was my cat bringing one in (bad me...I didn't know I shouldn't let them roam free then).

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texasranger2

Yesterday I saw a Northern Mockingbird mother screeching and flying low chasing a cat across the street and she meant business. It was pretty good. We've never had chipmunks here, just squirrels and they love to tease dogs and cats which is also fun to watch. I did see Dishrag Cat with that dead one though, I was surprised because the squirrels are faster than cats and much better at climbing and navigating through trees. Its the baby birds just out of the nest that don't stand a chance and I've seen way too many of those killed.

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s8us89ds

Dbarron, you reminded me that I haven't seen a chipmunk in at least 15 years. So I googled Chipmunk range and found out they don't live in Texas (which is where I moved from up north 15 years ago)! Bummer. I love those guys. I'm glad to see from Google that at least they're doing fine in the Northeastern U.S.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

YIKES, I take a vacation and the best discussion all year happens. I will try to not take this personally (joke). Where do I start to respond. ...

Havaheart... it is questionable if I have one.... another joke, but I am a bit on the deleting mentality side. I am not at all consistent and unchangeable where my morals are concerned. I am a pragmatist that is sometimes a lazy one at that. I am guided by my gut through all the conflicting views and overload of info and opinions. I weed out what I don't want and I am likely to change my mind tomorrow because of hearsay I heard yesterday. I will try almost anything and if it doesn't work, out it goes. The biologist that wrote up my wildlife plan for my land has recommended that I kill some deer, coons and feral cats. 40 nights of setting my trap per annum to get that out of control predator credit. I make offerings to the vultures above and have grown to admire them. I had a cow bird trap but was lousy at catching them, so my neighbor is raising chickens in the trap. My resident cat killed a baby cow bird that tried to fly out of a Bewicks Wren nest on my porch. The other 3 real wrens made a good escape. OH, I live on the borders of the EX-exburbs. A small development to my west about a 1 mile away. closest neighbor about a 1/4 mile.

I am supposedly running a bird sanctuary (Believe me I am a dilettante, a learn as I go type that appreciates all the combined knowledge in this thread.). We are just getting back mountain lions and I celebrate them warily I take out the garbage (a walk on a caliche road with trees and grassland at the head of a long and deep ravine) baring a heavy stick and a flashlight. The over abundance of Tiara-wearing-rats-in-high-heels-with-an-entitlement-complex is getting a bit of a culling. I have found two 300 lb. boars with their throats ripped along with LARGE blond hair filled cat poop and tracks 30' from my buildings. Maybe my shredded agave's will get a break.Coyotes stay in the valley where there is a better stream and a house that feeds feral cats. I hear their howls from afar at night but very rarely hear their up close yipping or up close howling.. I find the foxes getting more numerous as I decimate the coon population and that has made the feral cat population less. Coons rip open bird boxes that I have not as of yet constructed coon guards on. ..I sure wish those foxes would get that Alfa feral male that has made my aging and now demented cat's life hell. He swoops in through the cat window every week and has cost me hundreds in vet bills. He is untraceable so far. I will try stinky salmon.

I am just back from visiting the houses of my grandparents that I grew up in mostly and they are I eye popping green with tall woodlands jack in the pulpets and skunk cabbage damp with meadows (probably artificial) of Pennsylvania and mountain woodlands on the foothills to the Sandwich mountains... Otherwise I grew up in Jungles of Thailand, Hawaii. That makes me a hill and tree person, not a Flatlander (great band if you have not heard them). I am comfortable with the vast spaces of the grasslands but I find the structures of homes on them almost an artificial imposition when they are grouped in towns. I don't feel that way about the farmsteads. Farmers seem to instinctively understand the feel of the land and the value of good placement. New Mexican grasslands always have those amazing hills and mountains to create the dimensional space and far off closure. Meadows and lakes in New England create much needed space in the closed in two dimensional woods. I always climbed the mountains and felt such freedom when I reached the tundra line. I live now in a usually semi arid oak savanna and cedar break. It is a treed place , but a grassland also. I fight the Mountain ash juniper.

This visit made me so aware of the successional changings of our world. I had countless "I am older than the woods" experiences. One was picking flowers off of sizable trees and brush in the old clay tennis court in PA and the raspberry patch on the hill that was LARGE 50'+ trees.. and then there was the old blueberry patch in New Hampshire that had not been scythed for awhile.Half was ferns and half was impenetrable young birch.The trees on a WHOLE everywhere in this area of NH were so much larger than I remember as a child. I became aware that the trees of my youth were young successional population . 50 years sense the wholesale clearcutting of the lumber companies during the last years of the nineteenth century. Even the types of trees are changing from maple and birch to hemlock ,pines and oaks.

Here are some woods of my childhood...so much moisture. A symphony of green all in the yellow green spectrum. Not much glaucous here.









Here is the ex blueberry field in New Hampshire.. Yes, the trees were blueberries


Here are my woods of this spring. About as green as it gets. Yes , the agave are introduced. I am working on the forbes that all the deer have vanquished.




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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Catspa,

" The client and/or contractor is "all in" for the environment and "doing it right", until it costs $$$, or they can't do what they want, then suddenly that's not such a priority. "

I guess that I am that client with a limited pocketbook and limited time. I am DIY kind a human. I can do only what I can do which is only a third or more of what is needed. It is not that it is not a priority but somethings like, fighting invasive bluestem with a summer burn scares the shizz out of me and I can not afford people to do it for me, especially when the jury is still out wether it will help in the long run. I have seen the timing of the prescribed burning change from winter to summer and now they say even that is questionable. That leaves chemical and my little itty bitty hoe against a 7 acre population. It is more, feeling overwhelmed by the fighting of grass.

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s8us89ds

Wantonamara, welcome back. I can't decide which of those sets of pictures is the most beautiful. I like the New Hampshire one, but I like the Pennsylvania and Hill Country ones even more. I think the Pennsylvania is my favorite. It reminds me the most of the Northeastern woods where I grew up. The Hill Country landscape looks exotic to me, if you can believe that. :)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

s8, I read your comment to texasranger as having a somewhat personal tone, which got on my wrong side this morning, but I can assume you didn't mean it that way. Yes, let us continue this interesting discussion in a positive manner.

So, you have experienced coyotes as top predators? It seems unlikely that coyotes will ever disappear from out here. They have been trapped, poisoned, and shot for decades and seem as numerous as ever (in fact, a somewhat recent, detailed study from the University of Nevada, Reno backed this up -- has to do with the pack structure: any action that does not get the alpha male and female is apparently futile; all other members of the pack are more or less dispensable cannon-fodder). I occasionally see one peering through my fence at the top of the hill, here in the middle of suburbia. I once had a coyote visit my place in western Massachusetts -- much larger than the coyotes out here, bringing to mind the hypothesis that they have crossbred with wolves in their journey back to the East Coast.

Wantonamara, let me hasten to assure you that the clients I refer to, which the company I work for contracts with, are all mostly large public agencies with lots of resources (e.g., multiple billions of dollars in public bond money, in one case) and the contractors are similarly large-sized -- NOT people like you doing wonderful and interesting things on limited funds, for which there can only be admiration and sympathy (I have, by the way, read quite a few of your past posts with interest, though not sure on which forums). Sorry to have not made that clear. What happens with the clients and contractors I work with is that they basically want to do what they want to do, and would like to have the gloss of being "green" and responsible, but when push comes to shove sometimes (money or whether or not the project should be done at all), true colors are shown. You, on the other hand, must pick and choose your battles and carefully consider what you are doing. Your burn quandary is tempting (my graduate work tangentially involved control of invasive grasses by burning), but Imust refrain from another long-winded tangent and retire for now.

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s8us89ds

"Relax and smile - it only gets better (smiley face)." That's my advice for anyone and everyone that seems to be having a hard day (for example, like Texas Ranger has with his nuisance neighbor or like you reported having this morning). Is that "personal"? Nope. Not in my opinion, at least. Now, if I said something like "go screw yourself because you're a worthless moron that deserves to rot in hell" to someone, now that would be personal. :)

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Okay, s8, thanks for the explanation. I read your comment as being flip or sarcastic (I was in a grumpy frame of mind, I admit...) when, as you have explained, your intentions were supportive, so I apologize.

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s8us89ds

Thanks, no problem, no sweat.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, my guess is that the mission of the Humane Society program is aimed at true ferals, but a truly abandoned cat with potential to produce ferals would logically be included in that group, I think. On the other hand, a "stray" that is just someone's pet with a larger-than-average territory concept ("Boris" the Russian blue, in my neighborhood, for example, who seems to aspire to world domination, or at least the entire block), isn't that type of cat. The good condition of the cats there does suggest someone's care; the ferals here were very thin, rough and dirty, with some so malnourished that patches of hair had fallen out. In any case, I am relieved to hear that there are some resources available where you are , should things take a turn for the worse.

Wantonamara, I like how you describe your "older than the woods" experience. It was the discovery of the remains of barbed wire fences in my little patch of woods in western Massachusetts (lived there 9 years) that shocked me with the fact that what I had thought were mature woods had relatively recently been cow pasture. Succession happens fast there, very slowly here, where it's so dry. I also think your first-hand observations of wildlife interactions and your note about connections among raccoons-foxes-feral cats are very interesting. Are you running a sanctuary for a particular bird species or just birds in general?

The thought occurs to me that gardens usually don't include succession as a factor; in fact, the goal of most gardeners is to stop succession in its tracks, by all means possible. That makes some sense when what you have is a set-stage of choice exotics making up the garden, and, even with native gardens, when you live in a neighborhood where (as discussed earlier) it is tough to just let things run amok. Working at landscape-level, like you are doing, wantonamara, is a different mind-set and very interesting.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I had played tennis badly in that tennis court, made jam from the rasberries from where that forest was and blue berry pie where the birch trees are. I showed the pictures of PA and the Northeast to show the mindset of people that came west and felt a need to change the land that their towns sat on, planting trees and struggling to feel at home in a vast ocean of grass..The vocabulary of space, color and light is so fundamentally different. IN Mexico , they had forest all over when the Spanish arrived. and most of the Aztec and Mayan farming was done in shade and part shade. The Spanish did the reverse. They cleared the land in a huge effort to make their newly conquered land look like the clear open plains of central Spain. The tropical soils were very damaged by the removal of the canopy. I like the clear space but I ,also,do appreciate the break beneath an old oak tree on a Texas hot summers day. That shade is to die for.

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texasranger2

I don't buy the idea of the mindset you described as being an accurate representation of the majority of the people who settled out west. The land in those photos you posted wouldn't make very good farmland. People settled here because of the desire to own land in order to plow it up to raise crops or obtain grazing land for cattle to sell as beef or dairy. Other people came to make their fortune in mining, wildcatting for oil or railroads.

I've listened to too many conversations at too many tables around here in the midwest listening to what life was like, what people think of as important and how things were back in the day to buy an idea like that. If I said something like that they'd look at me like I had crawdads crawling out my ears.

What drastically changed the land in the midwest was first and foremost plowing after the invention of the John Deere steel bladed plow which was able to cut through sod. Fencing, the railroads creating little towns, killing off the buffalo herds and replacing them with cattle ranches all played a part. It was not an attempt to recreate a landscape like the northwest out of some feeling of making it feel like home. That is a modern persons notion and viewpoint looking with hindsight of ecological results, urban sprawl, different values and living a consumer lifestyle of comparative ease.

I spent the afternoon listening to my 94 year old aunt who is sharp as a tack and as practical as they come telling many stories describing her life as a girl and reading that post doesn't fit the picture at all.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Just look at me like I have crawdads crawling out of my ears..... Could be exactly what is wrong with my thinking. LOL. Do you have a solution for this malady? A crawdad flee dip? Or a good talking to from your Aunt. I would actually love a good dressing down from your aunt.

There is good farm land in PA., just not in that specific bog. The top of the hill has a great patch that kept 5 families fed through the depression. The farms are small. I apologize if I misspoke ,TXR. I come from some very impracticable people who are somewhat divorced from the people who did populate your area so I am just guessing and, it appears, probably guessing wrong. My people were not nearly so hard working. I wish I was at your table with your aunt listening to her stories. You should be taping them. The history of our elders are fading with them.

I was talking about the towns and the urge to plant trees in the plain. The uncomfortableness that many people feel when looking at the uncluttered flat land is a testament to their roots and your relatives ability to look beyond, speaks of their ability to question the known environments of their past and seen the plusses of a treeless land. I think that story would be of your Great great Grandmother's thoughts on what she encountered. I guess that being free of land clearing and contour plowing was a definite plus in the mind of a farmer. Fighting regrowth is a constant. Or the bit about fewer rocks , the bain of the swede, highlander scotsman and the displaced New Englander.

I think the plains of OK are more inviting than the Llano Estacado of the West Texas plains . Even the Indians took to it out of duress. Here is a quote ... Guess his assumption was wrong too about it never being good for farming and inhabiting.. He was not a farmer , but a soldier and could not guess how the aquifer would change things.

"After his 1852 expedition to explore the headwaters of the Red and Colorado Rivers, General Randolph Marcy wrote: "[not] a tree, shrub, or any other herbage to intercept the vision... the almost total absence of water causes all animals to shun it: even the Indians do not venture to cross it except at two or three places."[1] In his report for the United States Army:

"When we were upon the high table-land, a view presented itself as boundless as the ocean. Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either animate or inantimate, relieved the dreary monotony of the prospect; it was a vast-illimitable expanse of desert prairie .... the great Sahara of North America. it is a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean -- a land where no man, either savage or civilized permanently abides ... a treeless, desolate waste of uninhabitable solitude, which always has been, and must continue uninhabited forever."[11]"

Tex, In Picture three, are those trees on the horizon? Were they planted as hedgerows to break the wind, supply wood for building? . They remind me of the coastal plains west of Houston where the land gets as flat and then they have those far away copse rising tall from the plain. When I drive through this region, being a person grown up amongst trees, I teleport myself to the base of the copse and wonder what they are like. The prairie is a new realm of interest for me. I used to have that tendency to look at it as blank space, negative space that accentuates the islands of Real Land. I am not in that camp now. Even where I found my visual magic on my walks in the east this time was where I found light from above. I found myself often feeling very closed in and looking up for air. I thought of you. Maybe I aspire to the land where the It is 85% sky and 15% grassland. Give me time.


I once read a diary of a German Grandmother , written by a woman who settled down the road I now live on in 1825 migration. She mentions that the descendants were swallowed by the land and left their german intellectual traditions behind. She was a concert musician, one of the german intellectuals that left Germany in the "free Radical Movement" that settled Central Texas. There were actually many of them. Their Children became hardscrabble dirt Farmers and ranchers. Some might say "Bubbas", I wouldn't. I find their connection to this scrabble more and more interesting. I am guessing that the intellectuals picked land for beauty and not for fertility. LOL. I think they were also fleeing from the diseases on the coasts.


Oh dear, a much to long a post.... Whats that saying of my Dad from Montana. You can see farther and you can see less... well here you can read longer and read less.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Cattle hides and silver were the top commodities that the colonial Spanish sent back to the old world out of the West. The missions in California were basically livestock-raising operations. I imagine tree- and brush-clearing might have been related to that enterprise, just as my grandparents also cleared trees and brush on their ranch in N. California to expand grazing areas. There is also the effect of livestock on shrub and tree recruitment. Some grasslands around here that cease being grazed quickly revert to coyote brush (Baccharis), and in places oaks begin to recruit again, so grazing itself supports an area remaining grassland.

So, it goes both ways, it seems. People without trees want them; people with trees find them a nuisance.

By the way, my husband and I did take the dialect quiz, WoodsTea, and it puts me squarely in Northern and central California and my husband in Boston -- absolutely correct!

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texasranger2

I took the recent photos of the farm, which is now owned by the grandson of my uncle, and my aunt started in on how disgusted she is by the way the trees have been allowed to grow up around the buildings. Trees were always a sign of neglect. A shade tree or two by the house was typical but they were not planted as a landscaping element like people do today. Many suitcase farmers came to the midwest to score quick, plowed, then left. Many farms were abandoned when the owners died and the kids moved to urban areas. There are also many abandoned or nearly abandoned towns scattered across the plains. Those abandoned acres have become neglected & choked with trees, vines, brush undergrowth and weeds. On the other hand, many farms are still in operation. My aunt and mother jointly own one called The Mccoy Farm which is still a wheat farm and my aunt owns another by Pond Creek that is a working wheat farm. My Dad chose the portion of the farm on his side of the family that was free of trees in preference over the other one where they had been allowed to grow for that reason alone. The point is, people didn't have notions of creating the northeastern forested landscapes for a sense of home nor did they allow the landscape to become forested on purpose. That would be considered useless land and it was a negative result of what happened, not a goal. The land has become forever altered and infested with trees.

What was difficult living out here was the isolation because of the distances between people. The added fear from constant winds, freezing cold winters, blizzards, blazing hot summers, violetn storms, droughts, prairie fires etc, added to the challenge--not the lack of trees. There is a term called Prairie Madness that people came up with to describe the psychological effect of this on people. You have to realize how open and vast it actually was to really understand what we lost and what the plains were and still are all about.

Outside of people like Zach who posted early, and who obviously understands and appreciates the landscape, most don't grasp the enormity of the ecological disaster on the plains or what the peoples goals were who moved here. We now view preservation in terms of specific native plant and animals in isolated pockets but prairie pockets and reserves are like ponds or scraps. The scale of what happened is not simply the upset of a balance that needs correcting, its a 90% permanent loss of an entire feature on the earth. The largest natural grassland on the face of the earth was almost entirely lost and there are very few who mourn it due to ignorance or prejudice against that type of landscape which they see as inferior to what they grew up around or personally prefer to live around. The equivalent would be if there had been another machine invented that could drain a large sea to create farmland leaving some small ponds and the locals saying "There used to be a great sea where we are standing". Or, draining and refilling the Great Lakes with soil, leaving a few small lakes here and there and saying "There used to be what was called The Great Lakes here" with me telling them I know what they mean, we have some lakes down here too, while they, as an enlightened modern people with a greater appreciation for natives than the original settlers had, went about trying to figure out which plants were native and which weren't so they could restore the area that had replaced the now non existent Great Lakes with native plants.

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texasranger2

I missed the dialect quiz and can't find the post. If I talk like my Dad, uncles or aunts and some cousins I can sound like a true rural Okie through and through but you have to have the drawl along with the words to do it right. I can speak correct English fine and proper when it comes to verbs etc but never dropped the drawl. I found that out real quick when I lived in North Carolina for a while because they laughed at me, it kind of hurt sometimes.

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

Well, that is interesting texasranger, about the trees. I have only been through the Mid-West twice in my life (the last time about 20 years ago), by way of the old Route 66, and don't recollect seeing much in the way of trees at all, until hitting the Mississippi River, but I wasn't paying very close attention in those days.

However, I am a little confused. I am assuming that no tree is native and that the trees that are overtaking the landscape in the areas you are discussing originate from trees brought by early settlers? It is interesting that trees can get a foot-hold where it was once only prairie -- there must be enough water and the previous disturbance of the land allowed them to settle in.

Though I can't truly comprehend the prairie landscape of the interior U.S., I can relate to the problem of figuring out how to restore something that has completely disappeared. California's dry, interior, lower-elevation grasslands had been totally converted to European exotic annual grasses even before white settlers arrived. It is considered one of the largest, most complete and pervasive habitat conversions in history. The lack of records or true references for restoration plus the fact that it would be impossible at this point to convert the majority of it "back" (to what? nobody really knows...and the exotic annual grasses are supremely adapted to this climate, in any case -- hard to discourage them), has led many here (the more pragmatic of us, anyway) to consider the exotic annual grasses as "honorary natives" in dry, interior grasslands and call it a day. By the coast, where there is more moisture, it's a bit of a different story.

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texasranger2

Catspa, that would take a long extensive answer, its a very large and diverse area of the US and would depend on where you are, there are several native species in the midwest. Attachedhttps://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Tallgrass_prairie is a brief read from wikipedia. I find your descriptions of what has occurred and goes on in California quite interesting. I am not well read on California. I'm very familiar with the midwest from personal experience, being around many rural people & reading history. Like you in California I was raised here and I would guess that like you I remember a time when people were concerned about agricultural matters, just getting by, supporting families etc and didn't focus on such things as native plant issues. We were raised in a place where there were only a few common shrubs like lilac, rose of sharon or forsythia and the common kinds of flowers that some people grew from seed packets and stuff like iris or daffodils for decoration and everyones lawn was filled with clover and other weeds and a large percent had big vegetable gardens in the backyard.

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ZachS. z5 Platteville, Colorado

I think, in my area, the mindset was a little different. Here on the Front Range, farming was merely an afterthought, once they realized they needed some way to sustain the multitudes of gold seekers headed here, and then, most farming was small scale, only to serve the City's needs (we didn't get a railroad until close to 15 years after the town was founded, so, no way to ship goods back east). The climate and soil also played a part, but more on that later.

It wasn't until much later than that, even, that people here would even dream of worrying about landscaping. Most of the population in Denver was simply vagrants that came out of the mountains get drunk and visit brothels, petunias and daisies were the least of their concern. (Oddly enough, when Oscar Wilde toured in Leadville, the miners there couldn't get enough of his landscaping and interior decorating tips.) Then came the "City Beautiful" movement that was a nationwide phenomenon. Mayor Robert Speer (a native of Pennsylvania) made sweeping changes to the landscape, building public parks are lining every city sidewalk with trees. After all, as we have established, trees are the incarnate of natural beauty (many municipalities however have reversed that trend, instead of planting rows of ash and maple, they now plant medians and parks with ornamental grasses, native and xeric perennials).

Regardless of farming or landscaping though, the "treeing" of Colorado's prairies came mostly from our subduing of natural forces, namely floods and fires. Prior to settlement, the cottonwoods, which now choke the banks of the South Platte, never gained a foothold because the river was inundated with torrential flash floods on the regular. Take away the floods that once washed away the vast majority of tree seedlings each and every year and the trees are now a veritable forest.

Even in the foothills, most of the trees you see today would have been absent in 1859. All there was a few polka dots of ponderosa and Gambel oak thickets where now, immense stands of doghair lodgepole cover the side of every hill from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Ponderosa is a largely fire-resistant tree, whereas burns in lodgepole forest tend to be stand replacing. Every time a fire swept across the land, it cleared out the lodgepole, leaving the ponderosa. Now however, since we do our best to extinguish fires just as quickly as we possibly can, only in areas managed specifically for ponderosa savanna, where humans routinely remove the lodgepole pines, does that particular ecotype still exist. We removed fire, and now, once "barren" hillsides are an endless carpet of Pinus contorta.

I guess guess the above wasn't really a "prairie story" but it does illustrate how our human footprint has drastically changed the world around us.

I do believe that people who first came here thought this place was ugly for it's lack of trees. I do think that played a role in how they chose to landscape their yards, once that luxury became available and they weren't merely trying to survive in this harsh, and extreme environment. This is readily apparent when you sit on a high vantage point (there's plenty to be had) and look over the city of Denver in midsummer and you see the green leaves of millions and millions of trees. It's hard to believe at one point, a tourist from Europe once complained that Denver was home to more prairie dogs than people. That story is true of many towns all over the central part of the Country. I remember driving past historic Victorian homes in Abeline, Kansas and the lawns were completely shaded under a canopy of enormous trees that must have been planted near the time of original construction. Trees that were planted for beautification rather than the practicality of a shade tree or windbreak.

"most don't grasp the enormity of the ecological disaster on the plains...We now view preservation in terms of specific native plant and animals in isolated pockets but prairie pockets and reserves are like ponds or scraps."

That is true of any ecosystem. Small bits and pieces dotted here and there on the map are useless to species as a whole. But, what you say is particularly true of the prairie, which, unlike the comparatively large swaths of National Forest that cover the West, almost none of the Great Plains has been preserved.

The tallgrass prairie is virtually non existent. I'm not even sure there's much left of it in way of ponds or scraps, or islands. Places like Midewin National TGP are little more than museums in my mind, preserving a historical artifact for future generations to ogle. Much as we put on display the lost treasures of ancient empires, in preserving such a negligible piece of land we are simply saying "look what ONCE was, but is no longer." These tiny pockets of TGP scattered throughout the eastern great plains are so insignificant they really serve no ecological function.

The mixedgrass prairie may be in somewhat better shape, I'm not sure. Texasranger, you would know far more than I about that since that's smack dab where you live. I do know that the remaining MGP is significantly fragmented and scattered, though, I'm not sure if it's to the extent of the TGP further to your east.

The shortgrass prairie, however, I am intimately familiar with. It is lauded and feted as "nearly 80% of SGP remains intact." Laying in the immense rain shadow of the Rockies, the dryland farming that was used elsewhere on the Great Plains was impossible. Our topsoil is far shallower and far less rich then the MGP or TGP. In the end, the SGP was pretty much saved from the plow, except the areas hugging the river. Even today looking at satellite imagery shows that the vast majority of cropland in Eastern Colorado is within a few miles of either the South Platte or Arkansas river. Driving through the region, you will see that virtually all food crops in the state are concentrated exclusively on those two narrow bands of precious water. The rest of the agricultural land is either CRP, grass for haying, or is ranched. That didn't save it entirely though.

So, unlike much of the prarie, the shortgrass has been pretty much free from the impacts of farming. While the majority of the ecosytem may remain intact, it, like the other types of prairie is severely fragmented into small parcels that can not, on their own, support the biodiversity necessary for a healthy ecosystem. Even the largest parcels have been tremendously degraded through early attempts of farming (the belief that "rain follows the plow"), overgrazing from cattle, and the introduction and take over by invasive species. So, yes, we can say that 80% of the SGP is still in existence, we cannot say that it is good repair and useful to native wildlife.

I wouldn't call them "ponds" Texasranger, as ponds can be an example of a well functioning habitat. I would definitely agree that they are scraps. Though, I'm not sure even the dog would be happy with any of them.




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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Agree full-heartedly with your summation, Zach, that regardless the plant community type, little drips and drabs of "preserved" habitat are near-useless. As a fan of what once was S. Florida, I see that sad reality every time I'm down there. Good people are fighting incredibly hard battles against well-heeled real estate development interests, just to "save" what really do amount to scraps.

We're not quite so bad off up here in Wisconsin. The large-scale failure that was the 19th century attempt to turn the north into farms failed so miserably that govt. re-takeover of the land was just about the only option. Even following some of the most fierce, non-natural forest fires the world has ever seen following the logging-off of the northwoods, recovery has been nearly miraculous. As happened further east in Maine, et al, these very fires set the stage for a rebound of pine, birch, etc. Basically, the forest we enjoy today came out of the calamity of unbridled greed and lack of concern for what happens next.

Only now, with an utterly irresponsible state govt. in power, are these resources once again threatened on a grand scale. But that's another topic.

+oM

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catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14

texasranger, not only did folks not focus on native plant issues prior to roughly the 1970's, the impetus was in the whole other direction. Dr. P.B. Kennedy for a long time ran a USDA program in the early 1900s that actively solicited the importation of seeds from all over the world and immediately dispatched them to farms and ranches all over the U.S. for "trials", with reports of results coming back from the recipients, to see if these exotic species had potential for food crops or range improvement.

The University of California also maintained a number of experimental stations in various parts of California from the 1930s through the 1950s that were set up to test suitability of a wide range of species, mostly exotic, for "range improvement". These trials were motivated, at first, by the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which put the kibosh on the long standing practice of moving livestock to green, high elevation Sierra Nevada ranges during the summer when the lower elevation exotic-annual grasslands were all dead and spent. The goal was to find a way to make lower elevation ranges more productive in summer, maybe by using exotic perennial grass species (our native perennial grasses had already proven themselves not up to the task, apparently, having already been defeated by exotic annuals). Later on, an added motivation was the post-WWII population explosion that threatened to exceed California's capacity to produce enough beef (this was before plane-loads of beef began arriving from South America).

Using exotic species to try to improve grazing began as early as 1867, when perennial smilo grass (Piptatherum miliaceum, from Eurasia) was first introduced to California for that purpose and continues even to this day with a standard NRCS prescription of "rose and brome" (rose clover and Blando brome, Trilfolium hirtum and that variety of Bromus hordeaceus) for range improvement. Rose clover, from the Mediterranean, was only just introduced to the U.S. by Professor R. Merton Love of U.C. Davis in the late 1940s to improve ranges but is now found just about everywhere at low elevations. (Ironically, the annual prize for best PhD dissertation in ecology at U.C. Davis is the Merton Love Award :-). )

There were also many publications from that era describing how to efficiently remove native chaparral brush with herbicides or by "chaining" (using a taut chain scraping over the ground surface to uproot shrubs), after the Forest Service clamped down on using fire for that purpose in the 1950s.

My own family was, of course, part and parcel with all this in those days. And it wasn't just trying to "improve" the landscape with new, exotic plants and removing brush. They also introduced wild turkeys and tried to introduce chukars (that last one failed, if I remember right). "Improvement" also included removing rattlesnakes, bears, lions, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, or any other animal deemed a threat to human aspirations. Sad to think back on all this now.

As Zach and tom note, fire suppression alone has played a huge part in altering landscapes. Repeat photography history photos show, for example, that there were far fewer trees and younger trees in Yosemite National Park a hundred years ago than there are now. The Sierra forests are currently in the midst of large-scale species conversion, with white fir threatening to replace Douglas fir, Ponderosa and sugar pine, etc. due to fire suppression.

Thank you very much texasranger and Zach for the references and explanations about the prairies, a real education for me.

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texasranger2


Here is a good summary of the westward expansion. It covers political policies and makes clear how the diverse ecological problems we have been discussing occurred. When talking about how areas in the US became altered from an ecological perspective it is important to understand the timelines, political policies and events of history. The individual farmers who settled in the plains were put into a position by greedy Eastern bankers and speculators to pay back loans which forced them into raising cash crops and which resulted in over farmed lands. The drive to eliminate the Native Americans by mass slaughtering of the buffalo herds for economic gain by speculators in the East played a large role in the ecological disasters we have today on the plains.

Catspa, my family was part and parcel too. There wasn't a lot of choice. My long distance generalizations and impressions of Colorado & California are being altered.

The rivalry of the common man in the West and Easterners still exists today. People I know and grew up around have always resented the attitudes held by people who live or have moved here from the East who consider themselves superior and more cultured while they consider us uncouth and primitive. The attitudes still exist and pass from one generation to the next.

Today King Corn is the crop affecting decisions and ecology. Some things, like greed and power, never change.http://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/westwardexpansion/

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texasranger2

This video illustrates the calamity of what happened pretty good. I know lots of people whose parents were sharecroppers and migrant farmers, they know what went down and how it was.








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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

TX, I can attest to that disdain of westerners. I apologize for being a transplanted easterner. The fact is something that I have no control over. Some attitudes are like our smell. We think we have bathed and are rid of it, but it creeps in slowly after awhile and we just can't smell ourselves. I just got back from a family and a high school reunion and I don't know how many times I was greeted by the "Are you STILL in Texas", with a slight wrinkling of a nostril. One told me , when I commented on the attitude, that it was well deserved because we have birthed the worst and commented "as in Texas goes the Nation". I started listing names of Eastern bankers , criminals and politicians of powerful ill repute from the north east and started listing our cream of the crop that were progressive, journalistic, artistic icons that had benefited the nation. And ended it with a "I don't judge you by your criminals." She was amazed at who I claimed as a Texan. I think she was shocked that I called her on it. When I moved here , I was dissed by Texans and then I was sent back to school in NY and I was dissed for being a Texan there. I got it from both sides. Reading your page with the sumary that you sent out, the distance of the East and West is a long term feature of our nation's chemistry and I doubt we will be rid of it ever.

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s8us89ds

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone. This was the best thread ever. Sorry I got busy and missed the last week or so. But I had read every word until then. It was great hearing the stories from so many intelligent, passionate folks who are leading the way in native gardening. Have a great July 4th weekend!

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docmom_gw(5)

I just sat and read the entire thread. So many obviously deeply thought and carefully expressed ideas. I agree with so much of what everyone has shared. I grieve the tragic loss of the Great Prairies, but I don't quite know how or where to share that grief. How does one respond to such stupidity (in hind sight) when the causes are so multi factorial and justified, given most individuals' ignorance at the time. We definitely need to educate everyone about the fragility of the earth, but avoid coming off as zealots, which can turn our learners off. Praise any efforts, no matter how futile they may seem, to restore and preserve whatever natural assets we still have. Hopefully, these sorts of discussions will eventually spark ideas to help move society in a positive direction. Even changing attitudes toward being more accepting of diverse ideas and opening peoples' minds to considering changes in the status quo would be phenomenal. I look forward to much more discussion.

Martha

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Indeed, all or nearly all intact plant communities, upon being seen for the first time by western man, were simply considered for their immediate utility to this or that purpose as it was then understood. None that I'm aware of-prior to the emergence of bona fide conservationists like Jon Muir, et all were ever considered to have intrinsic value. Across the world at large, in particular, in those places where "development" has not yet happened, the same mindset is at work today.

+oM

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texasranger2

This thread brought out some of our personal, regional pet peeves. That in and of itself was educational. I am thinking specifically of you wisconsitom getting prairies thrown in your face as the native plant solution for all situations, along with some comments coming out of California and Colorado. One of mine is people who either live or have lived in the east and never cease to remind anyone around here for the umpteenth time that they are from a superior place in every regard. There seems to be no subject that doesn't offer a suitable opening for yet another reminder of the fact & they seem to assume we have the memory of a gnat needing to be constantly retold. It reminds me of name dropping for enhancing one's status or carrying around a list of credentials for a job application. Of course the local natives are in awe of them and we feel appropriately humbled and put in our place on the status ladder :#. (Mostly we have to wear duct tape across our mouths).

I got a strong reality check while sitting in my air-conditioned home in a housing development with a refrigerator full of readily available food & ice, typing away at my convenient computer judging those who suffered the hardships of settlement.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Perspective, perspective! I'm more and more convinced that the final arbiter of all human thought is a well-honed sense of perspective!

+om

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texasranger2

And common sense goes a long way. I started thinking how most of us who post here are city dwellers with indoor jobs which are the result of established communities & urbanization. I'm comparing us to the people who immigrated here, many desperate to simply obtain land with the goal of living off the land, fur trading, lumber etc. What really makes us any less guilty? We use fossil fuels and enjoy all the luxuries and entertainments of modernization while mourning the loss of a pristine landscape. The people who settled here had a much greater understanding and bond to the land than we do, they were a part of it. The best we can hope to accomplish is awareness through education and being sensitive to the environment and land, trying to help in any small way to preserve & protect it. A lot of little guys appreciating and growing natives along with not wasting resources does add up but we have to keep things in perspective and not go radical in our attitudes spouting off like zealous warriors which only turns most people off.

BBC America has been showing some very well produced nature shows every Tuesday night, they play back to back all evening long. Has anyone else been catching those? Last night the subject was "The Human Planet". Very thought provoking stuff, they showed desert people whose main concern in life has always revolved around the effort to get water & food. I checked out some Willa Cather books last week, its interesting reading about the settlers which puts things into perspective.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

TxRanger, I did not post those photos as a vehicle to put your grassland roots down and feed into your pet peeve.. I am sorry that you took it that way, if you did. I was trying to bring up the fact that many of us carry a primal landscape in our hearts wherever we go, weather we like it or not. What we do with it does differ. Some will want to recreate it. The bog of my past makes me very aware of the roll of water in my dryer landscape. I would never try to recreate it the old one. I love the differences in the two landscapes. Here Prickly pear can drip over a sheath of rock and have a conversation with a bald cypress and Maidenhair ferns. That to me is magic. Water is a visiter to my land now. It comes and it goes quickly.

I would love to meet you one day surrounded by what you think is the ideal grassland that feeds your primal landscape. I would want you as my guide in that landscape so I could see it through your eyes. Is it a date? I think I am headed your way in October. I was thinking of going to the grassland national Park and Wichita mountains unless you have a better place to suggest..

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texasranger2

I wasn't talking about you or your pictures, I was speaking from my own set of priorities, values & experiences living and having grown up in a small town in Oklahoma among an average family of midwestern farmers who originally settled here as homesteaders.

The farmers have been done dirty by policies coming out of the east. The idea that people admired or wanted to create anything similar to what was in the east was laughable because most wanted to get away from there so if that is what's causing you to think I was referring to you personally, you misinterpreted it that way in your own mind as being about you. As a matter of fact, I bounced the idea off of a few grandchildren of homesteaders and migrant farmers (one was from the panhandle which was the worst of all) last Sunday and they all thought it funny & agreed their grandparents wanted to put in as much distance as possible from Eastern US influences of any kind. A lively conversation ensued.

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