Miss Floribunda: Unintended consequences of “guerrilla gardening”

November 18, 2013

"Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park" by Miketwo (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Via Wikipedia.

Dear Miss Floribunda,

My wife is from Vermont and she thinks that the autumns in the Washington area are not comparable in beauty to those in New England because there aren’t enough sugar maples. After a drive through Rock Creek Park, she suggested we buy some sugar maple seedlings and plant them there, but I am not willing to risk arrest.  She suggested another guerrilla gardening tactic and wants to make green grenades containing these and seeds of other plants she fancies and toss them around area woodlands.   Do you think this is a good idea?

Jittery on Jefferson Street

- MISS FLORIBUNDA -

– MISS FLORIBUNDA –

Dear Jittery,

The law that you should probably be most jittery about is the law of unintended consequences.  When I was growing up in Louisiana the waterways were choked by the gorgeous but fish-smothering water hyacinth. They were introduced by bayou beautifiers after the Brazilian blooms were given away as mementos at an international exhibition in New Orleans. It took the Army Corps of Engineers many years and millions of dollars to control them.

Examples closer to home include the once-popular Bradford pear, no longer the official tree of Prince George’s County, which has become recognized as a pest.  Developed from Chinese ancestors, it was thought to be sterile — yet it has become dangerously invasive.  And of course all of us who do not own pandas find bamboo uncontrollable. Although the sugar maple is native to the northern U.S. and Canada,  I would consider it prudent to plant it on your own property where you can admire it with impunity.

For an expert answer on all matters legal and ecological, you can question the guest speaker at the next program of the Hyattsville Horticulture Society: Marc Imlay, conservation biologist and Non-native Invasive Plant-control Coordinator  of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He and his volunteers, the Friends of Magruder Park, have been working hard all year to weed out bush honeysuckle, English ivy, and other invasive plants from our parks. Birds are probably the guerrilla gardeners dropping seed bombs in Magruder Park, so even planting certain non-native plants in our home gardens provides them with the seeds to spread.

Our responsibility to the rest of the environment is great.

The Q&A program with Mr. Imlay will take place at the Hyattsville Municipal Building at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 16. Light refreshments will be served.