Where Do Camels Belong?

by Barbara Walvoord

Where Do Camels Belong? a 2014 book by Ken Thompson, tries to correct the oversimplifications of the movement to control invasive plants. At Lathrop, we are not guilty of the oversimplifications he discusses. We take a scientifically sound, reasoned approach.

Thompson points out that there used to be camels in the U.S. So to determine what is “alien” and what is “native” is tricky. Further, some alien plants provide benefits, and most do not become invasive. It’s oversimplistic to hate all alien plants or try to restore a pre-colonial ecology.

But some aliens are highly invasive and seriously harmful, and these, he says, we must attack. “Am I suggesting that we should stop trying to slow the spread of alien species, or trying to control or eradicate the small minority of species that do cause serious problems? No, I’m not.” (p. 220).

So here at Lathrop, we are targeting that small minority of alien invasive species that are causing serious problems, not because we hate all aliens, but because these particular invasive plants pose very serious threats to the birds, bees, butterflies, and other creatures that we love, and to the food chains that sustain our land’s creatures–including us.

For example, research has shown that 96% of birds need insects, not just seeds and nectar, to raise their young. And 90% of insects eat only native plants, because they have the specific mouth parts and body chemistry to use the plants with which they co-evolved. (Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home, pp. 21-24, 58)

So at Lathrop, our chickadees, our bluebirds, our wrens and cardinals need a diverse environment including many native plants.

The first photo below, from the web, shows Japanese barberry completely taking over a forest.


The second photo shows invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land.

Invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land
Invasive barberry coming into Lathrop land


When these alien invasives such as barberry, Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, and others take over, it means fewer native plants, fewer insects for our birds, disruption and destruction on our land. But if we act now, we can get these dangerous invasives under control.

The Land Conservation committee, with a grant and resident donations, has completed year 1 of a 3-year plan for invasives removal from the most critical 35 acres of our land on both campuses. The committee also works on Lathrop’s walking trails, sponsors educational programs, and plants native shrubs and wildflowers.

You’ll soon receive a request to donate to the Lathrop Community Fund, which will raise money for a number of Lathrop projects, including the land conservation committee. You can donate through this Fund, marking your donation specifically for the land conservation committee. You can also send donations directly to Debra Parry, made out to the Lathrop Retirement Community, and marked for the “Land Conservation Fund.” Your contribution will be tax deductible.


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