Aliens in the Backyard
Plant and Animal Imports Into America
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
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List of Illustrations
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This book could not have been written without the help of others. I wish tothank the Virginia Military Institute for encouraging me to pursue a topic onlytangentially related to my professional interests and the Jackson-Hope Com-mittee for the generous support and confidence in giving me my first-ever sab-batical. The late Elizabeth Hostetter of the VMI Preston Library was both a...
As American as Apple Pie: An Introduction to Weeds
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No Native American ever ate an apple pie before 1492. It couldn’t have hap-pened. While there was water aplenty and salt enough, there were no applesfor filling, no lemons for juice, no cinnamon or cloves for spice, no sugar (otherthan maple) for sweetening, no wheat for flour, and no butter for pastry. Nordid any North American Indian before Columbus graze a horse on Kentucky...
Out of Africa: How Slavery Transformed the American Landscape and Diet
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Two hundred and fifty years of slavery left an indelible mark on America.Twenty-six million of us descend from the one-half million men, women, andchildren brought to the New World on the infamous Middle Passage. Ameri-can jazz, blues, rock and roll, and gospel music have deep African roots. Africanwords—okra, gumbo, juke—enrich our language, and soul food graces many...
A Green Nightmare: The Un-American Lawn
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North America has thirty-two million acres of grass. There are more acres oflawn than corn. Ostensibly a symbol of suburban leisure, the lawn is actually alabor intensive monoculture annually consuming three million tons of fertili -zer and sixty-seven million pounds of pesticides, and it is responsible for theuse of five hundred and eighty million gallons of gasoline. Every year mowing...
A Sow’s Ear from a Silk Purse: The Legacy of Sericulture
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Despite four hundred years of effort, the American silk industry has neverachieved the success its boosters dreamed it might. But efforts to establish ithave introduced alien flora and fauna. Ironically, the species that silk boostersworked hardest to establish have thrived least, while less popular species andescapees have become the objects of massive government-sponsored eradica-...
Psychedelic Gardens: What Grandmother Grew in Her Backyard
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Chances are that your garden harbors plants with potent mind-altering abili-ties, some of which you know about, others of which you are unaware. Somemay be illegal just to possess. Many plants either accumulate or produce chemi -cal compounds to help them in their perpetual battle against predators, whichwould eat them to death. All our kitchen herbs, for example, derive their culi-...
Bad Air and Worse Science: Malaria’s Gifts to America
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Malaria may well be the deadliest disease humanity has ever encountered.Experts guesstimate that the disease has killed more people throughout historythan have wars. Today 250 to 300 million people worldwide are infected, and 2.5million of these die each year. Prior to World War II, the United States was alsocursed with malaria. During the Civil War 50 percent of white and 80 percent...
Bioterror: Older Than You Think
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In the fall of 2001, letters containing anthrax appeared in news media officesin Florida, New Jersey, and New York, in Microsoft offices in Nevada, and inthe U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. Five people died from anthrax, twenty-five survived, and perhaps ten thousand had to take precautionary antibioticsfor two months. The rest of us became uncomfortably aware of the possibili-...
Cowboys: And Their Alien Habits
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The quintessential American icon, the cowboy, and his accessories—horse,cattle, and tumbleweed—are all alien. The cowboy, being human, is, of course,an interloper in the New World. His accoutrements—hat, horse, saddle, andspurs—are Anglicized versions of those used by his antecedent, the Mexicanvaquero (or cowboy, vaca being Spanish for cow). The Stetson, named after...
. . . and Indians: Less Native Than You Think
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Adopted hero of many, the Native American is often hailed as the dispossessedguardian of a “natural” America that post-Columbian invaders—plant, animal,and human—despoiled and degraded. While the post-Columbian flora andfauna of the Americas radically changed thanks to the influx of thousands ofnew species, the idea of Native Americans tending to a pristine America is...
An Entangled Bank: Roadside Weeds
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It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plantsof many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flittingabout, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect thatthese elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and depend-ent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws...
House Pests: Some of Those Who Share Your Quarters
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House pests, like the houses they plague, are almost all imports to America.Few, if any, are accurately named either popularly or scientifically as to coun-try of origin, although the warm, humid environments they like point to a tropi -cal birthplace for these cosmopolitan creatures. Not that country of origin hasstopped us from slurring other nations; the misnamed American cockroach...
It Seemed a Good Idea at the Time: The Well-Intentioned Ecological Disaster
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Who are the greatest villains in America’s long history of alien invasion?Columbus heads many a symbolic list, since he is credited with being the firstEuropean to land in the New World. That, of course, lets the Vikings off the hook, although the effects of their invasion, admittedly, were limited. ButColumbus, though a fitting symbolic figure, actually didn’t touch America per...
Misplaced Americans: As Rootless as the Humans Who Invited Them In
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Humans are not the only species to have immigrated on their own into theUnited States. A number of our more visible fauna come from elsewhere, manyunder their own steam. Some are indigenous to the United States and havegreatly expanded their native ranges, becoming pests in their new homes andraising interesting questions as to just what is native. Although some of my great-...
Gone Fishin’: An Unnatural Pastime
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Nothing could be more typical of a lazy summer’s day—An American youth isheaded toward his favorite fishing hole armed with a cane pole and a can ofworms. Yet few scenes have more nonnative elements in them than this one.The kid, the pole, the fish, the worm, the pond—all are nonindigenous.Not itself plant or animal, the pond is often an artifact of civilization. Al -...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012