Archive for the ‘Analysis/Reflections’ Category

Assumption: Most plant diversity in Missouri is near the ground

Assumption: Recent invasive species (Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Winter Creeper/ Climbing Euonymus, Bradford pear…) have severely transformed our natural landscapes, especially at the ground level.

Assumption: The expanding saturation frontier of several invasive species shows no sign of being stopped or reversed.



Assumption: Eventually only areas of active restoration and prevention will maintain traditional natural landscapes

Assumption: People are starting to become more aware of the problem and are fighting back

Assumption: Lots of urban acreage currently is lawn. We have an enormous potential to restore and landscape traditional plant communities.

Refugia: Ecological enclaves that preserve threatened or relic species.

YES REFUGIA!!! Why not!!!!!! 
Because it is labor intensive, refugia should be done in urban areas. Cities and suburbs are where people can easily work on preserving our natural heritage while also beautifying their communities.

Replacing lawns that are not actively being used for recreation or transportation offers an enormous potential.

Community civic groups, gardening clubs, nature enthusiasts and hobbyist can cultivate the preservation of native and relic ecology.

Here are some ideas:

Urban restoration areas in parks and common ground – Such efforts should be publicized and used to educate the public

Native Garden clubs – Organizations can aid gardeners and promote native plants. They can showcase native landscaping. Gardening groups can catalog and distribute gardening advice and field notes

Native garden contests / promotions / photo contests. Native gardens can be showcased thru contests, calendars, websites and videos

Cultivating and distributing local native cultivars – Native plants and seeds can be collected and distributed from natural areas before they are developed. Nurseries can offer local varieties of native plants.

Partnerships – Universities can collaborate with landscaping companies in order to develop ecological restoration business models. Public land managers can work with academic and corporate sponsors to promote restoration efforts. Schools can give students opportunities to volunteer and learn about careers in ecology, land management and landscaping.



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Traditional Missouri landscape

Refugiaan area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Invasive species threaten our traditional natural environments.


Areas set aside as ecological preserves and wilderness are generally areas where human interference has been restricted or limited.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Wilderness has been traditionally defined as undeveloped or free from human management


Traditional Missouri landscape, diverse but at risk!

Invasive species challenge this “hands off” approach. By leaving the land alone, nonnative species completely transform traditional landscapes.


MKT trail – With green Honeysuckle infestations out to the horizon


Unfortunately, by introducing exotic species, merely protecting traditional landscapes from development is no longer enough. With invasive plants, we risk losing the ability to have large scale areas that are easy to maintain.


Honeysuckle removed (foreground)

In the face of multiple invasive species infestations, an active long term commitment to preventing and removing introduced species is required.


Severe Infestation of Asian Bush Honeysuckle. The entire area is saturated with it!

Sadly, what was once generally self-sustaining if left alone, now requires a well organized labor intensive intervention that, at best, can only be effective in a few select areas. In other words: Refugia.



Traditional Missouri landscape

In the face of multiple infestations of exotic invasive plants, establishing and maintaining refugia is our best hope for preserving our traditional natural environments.



Traditional Missouri landscape – Open with a view to the horizon

In other words, areas actively maintained to be free of invasive infestations will function as a refugia for traditional landscapes, while most other locations become severely degraded.


Severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation

Refugia for future generations.





Refugia could be anywhere. It could be your backyard or a group of neighbors who only plant native gardens.




It could be local parks and wooded common ground areas and it could be areas within our parks and wildlife refuges.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Larger refugia in high quality areas need to be carefully selected because of the long term systematic labor intensive efforts required.


Area where Asian Bush Honeysuckle has been removed

An example could be a state park located near an urban area.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Often such areas are already at risk because disastrous landscaping decisions found in adjacent suburban gardens.


Bradford Pear, another landscaping menace!

An organized intervention/maintenance program will be necessary

For example, a state park could create an adopt a spot system. Such a program could educate, supply, coordinate volunteers.

A state park with 2,000 acres and 500 volunteers could create a program where each volunteer is responsible for 4 acres. If each volunteer could locate 4 additional volunteers to assist, effectively the program would have an acre per person responsible for maintaining refugia.


Honeysuckle stump: Unfortunately chemicals will be needed to kill it!

Also needed would be buffer zone program around the state park. Such a program would inform landowners of invasive species problems in the area. Landowners would be offered various incentives to participate in keeping their land free of invasive infestations.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle and Winter Creeper infestation

Some possible incentives for landowners: Property tax reductions, sponsorship for invasive removal and maintenance on their property, some type of recognition for keeping a traditional environment on their property.

Please consider volunteering to support our traditional landscapes and diverse natural environments!


Traditional Missouri at risk! May Apples in spring time.


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Columbia Missouri is a Midwestern college town with a high level of education among its citizens.

Photo by Jay Buffington

Based on the percentage of adults with graduate degrees, Columbia is the thirteenth most educated municipality in the United States.

MKT Trail with Honeysuckle saplings growing on the rocky cliffs

It is also known as a “green city” with many parks, recreation trails, bike lanes, recycling programs and a large segment of voters who consider environmental issues a priority.

Rock Bridge State Park – Outer Ozark Border

Our outdoor recreational areas are popular and appreciated. Many take pride in living in a place with so much natural beauty and the opportunity to enjoy it.

View from Forum Nature Area in Columbia, Missouri

In many ways Columbia is not a typical Midwestern small city.  If there is any place where you would expect people to be aware of a widespread ecological disaster unfolding in front of them… in plain sight… you would think it would be Columbia, Missouri.

MKT trail & a severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation (all the green bushes!)

Of course, no city is perfect. It is hard to imagine a modern American urban area that is not covered in concrete and sprawled out on the edges.

Imported plant infestations that begin in the city eventually infest the areas we have set aside to remain as wilderness.

Gans Creek Wilderness area Rock Bridge State Park

Our parks, which have some truly outstanding examples of central North American scenery, are becoming drastically altered.

Watersheds and the surrounding mature hardwood forests of our traditional landscape are being devastated by exotic invasive vegetation.

MKT trail – With a green Honeysuckle infestation out to the horizon

Within the City itself, all areas that are not mowed or paved are relentlessly being dominated by Asian Bush Honeysuckle.

Asian Bush Honeysuckle – Impenetrable – over your head

In other areas Wintercreeper is smothering all surfaces it comes into contact with.

Wintercreeper Infestation – MKT trail

Most city dwellers are not aware of the radical transformation occurring within their backyards. These changes taking place are a drastic ecological break from the past… and it is relentless!

Severe infestation – Solid Honeysuckle over 10 feet tall in a forested area

Landowners who are aware of the problem can, sometimes with great effort, restore and recreate a diverse traditional Missouri landscape.

The “double whammy” in Columbia, Missouri – Honeysuckle & Wintercreeper in a backyard in Columbia

Those who live near the leading edge of infestation can take preventative measures. These are much easier than restoration work in areas of severe long term infestation.

The green bushes are Honeysuckle that are beginning to infiltrate Rock Bridge State Park

How can it be that such a drastic change to our ecology and traditional landscape is completely ignored?

Mature Oak Hickory forest with a heavy infestation

How can we let our backyards become breeding grounds for noxious vegetation, rather than showcases that celebrate our unique and beautiful natural landscape?

Ancient Central Missouri landscape – Rock Bridge State Park

How can we let our undeveloped areas become overrun by evasive species without reacting?


How can Columbia, this “green” city that appreciates its outdoor resources and natural heritage, let this happen?

Severe Wintercreeper and Honeysuckle infestation right off the heavily traveled MKT trail.

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 Outer Ozark Border

May 28, 2011

A pipeline cut through a traditional riparian/bottomland corridor

Rock Bridge State Park - Boone County, Missouri - No Asian Bush Honeysuckle in sight - yet !


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From now on, all outdoor space requires our attention!

Picture 043

Our new relentless monotonous default condition

From now on, wilderness will require intense gardening to remain wilderness!


Honeysuckle stumped and killed 

Original Missouri – Keep it clean!
Picture 120

Traditional Missouri landscape – At risk!

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In its grip

There are times when I can’t help but think we have no idea what we are doing.

At eye level... Everywhere!

I wouldn’t want to operate on someone or take my computer apart and try to put it back together.  If I operated on someone, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize I am in over my head and that I should stop.

Easily 15 Feet tall!

When I look about the modern landscape, it occurs to me that we live in a world where even the slightest misstep can have serious unforeseen consequences.

Sometimes it seems we are like a bull in the china shop that thinks its a ballerina.

Paying attention - a survival skill

It continues to amaze me that so few people realize how drastically we have changed our natural landscape when it is so obvious to see.

Blanket coverage

It should be deeply disturbing that casual landscaping decisions can have such an utterly overwhelming impact.  This plant does not feed people or even look that attractive.  Why is it here?  Why don’t we even notice what it has done? Why have we been so slow to react?

Unintended consequences…

MKT trail - Columbia, Missouri*

*A popular recreation trail.  Most visitors are oblivious to the severe damage around them.

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Cut through monoculture

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