I love my hometown, but I have a bone to pick with a few of its inhabitants — especially the green ones. It’s not the lively Nader supporters of Portland, Ore., that I have hard feelings for, but rather the guileful botanic creepers that go by the common name English ivy. Botanic enemy number one is a luscious green forest dweller, a lazy gardener’s groundcover, a symbol of old-world garden sophistication — and, in Portland, an insidious invasive species. English ivy (Hedera helix, for the botanically savvy) infests more than half of the city’s forests, choking out trees, ferns, and any other struggling forest undergrowth.
Portland’s standoff with ivy is just one battle in the nation’s war against alien species. That war is the subject of two new books, Kim Todd’s Tinkering with Eden: A Natural History of Exotics in North America and Jason and Roy Van Driesche’s Nature Out of Place.
Todd weaves 17 tales of past and present exotic organisms that have staked their claim in North American soils — abet... Read more