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Valhallalla

Coconut Palm Massacre In South Florida State Park

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Valhallalla

Mizell-Johnson State Park in southern Broward County Florida has roughly two miles of undeveloped Atlantic Ocean barrier island beach extending from Port Everglades Inlet to just north of Dania Beach Pier. I have been visiting this park for around 35 years. As long as there has been a beach here all sorts of things have arrived on the shore floating in from near and far including seaweed, trash and the occasional square grouper. Plant seeds frequently wash up and germinate. Coconuts have always been part of the mix here sprouting and thriving on their own and sometimes being assisted by humans. Coconuts have probably grown here since well before south Florida was developed.

It has recently been decided that all the coconut palms must be eliminated from the park. For the last few weeks there has been cutting and chopping of hundreds of palms many of them several decades old. The coconuts have been singled out because they are not native.

This is all part of the misguided campaign to rid all the state parks of any and all exotic species regardless of whether or not they are problematic. This mandate comes down from the ignorant bureaucracy in Tallahassee. I was told that apparently the previous park manager had resisted the push to cut down the coconuts but there is now a new manager who has acquiesced.

In my opinion this is a ridiculous waste of resources. It does nothing beneficial but instead actually reduces the beauty and usefulness of the park. I wish people could move on from the flawed line of thinking that all exotics are always bad and all natives are always good. That is simply not true.

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Valhallalla

Here are some examples of Florida taxpayer dollars productively working for the common good:

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This last one hurts the most. A dozen or so years ago I discovered it as a small sprout on the beach nearby. Knowing it would not survive long in that location near the hide tide line I relocated it to a higher spot in the dunes where it thrived. It had several feet of trunk and was starting to get a nice lean. It finally flowered last year. The current crop of fruit was looking like it would probably have been viable. Just one week before its slaughter I had noticed and commented to my wife about the fact that the palm had never had any of its fronds trimmed. All the leaves that this coconut had ever produced were either laying at its base or still attached to the palm. A week later it got the ultimate trim.

This is all so terribly stupid and sad.

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Palmarum

Sad indeed -sigh-

I would sneak in some Pseudophoenix, wonder what they would do about that.

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NOT A TA

I wonder if any consideration was given to the cocos participation in erosion control during big storms?

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Silas_Sancona

A bit of a head scratcher for sure.. I mean if Coconuts have drifted to Florida shores ..from say the Cuba, the rest of the Caribbean / Yucatan for ..quite some time..  well before   Europeans arrived .. interesting they'd be  considered not native.   Technically, because 99% of FL was underwater a few times, at some point in the past ..not much could be considered native ..long term anyway.. by that kind of thought.

..Can understand axing nasty stuff like Australian Pine, -'Bleepin- Brazilian Pepper, and Meleluca ..which were intentionally brought to FL,  but eliminating Coconuts that essentially planted themselves?  Seems a bit ..odd ..as though there has to be something else behind the motive..  They intend to do this state wide, eventually?   Very off beat thinking, even for FL.

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mnorell
2 hours ago, Silas_Sancona said:

A bit of a head scratcher for sure.. I mean if Coconuts have drifted to Florida shores ..from say the Cuba, the rest of the Caribbean / Yucatan for ..quite some time..  well before   Europeans arrived .. interesting they'd be  considered not native.   Technically, because 99% of FL was underwater a few times, at some point in the past ..not much could be considered native ..long term anyway.. by that kind of thought.

..Can understand axing nasty stuff like Australian Pine, -'Bleepin- Brazilian Pepper, and Meleluca ..which were intentionally brought to FL,  but eliminating Coconuts that essentially planted themselves?  Seems a bit ..odd ..as though there has to be something else behind the motive..  They intend to do this state wide, eventually?   Very off beat thinking, even for FL.

It is plainly obvious to most of us who have lived in southern Florida what constitutes a dangerous, truly invasive species (and I for one heartily agree with those you noted), versus those that are perhaps what one would consider non-endemic, non-indigenous (within whatever random timeframe we might assign), but naturalized, and that in other respects are either neutral in effect or beneficial toward the ecosystem in one way or another. Coconuts of course are one of the most valuable plants in the vegetable kingdom, providing (as noted previously) shoreline soil-binding, as well as shelter, building materials, fiber, food and drink (to humans as well as animals of all stripes), and also providing the immense and trouble-free gift of pollen for honey-bees and other insects. After Irma decimated our section of Big Pine Key, there was one heavily damaged coconut tree in front of our house that had opened an inflorescence, and that lone inflorescence was centrally important to bees, ants, and an anole, a little mini-ecosystem, and I witnessed that all three were sharing that tiny spot because there was little to nothing else to sustain them during those desolate weeks after the destruction occurred. 

Coconuts are documented growing wild in Florida at least back to the early 19th century, as noted by Audubon's friend, botanical explorer John Loomis Blodgett, who wrote a letter in 1845 about his discoveries in the wilds of far southern Florida: "Of Palmae, Cocos nucifera is certainly a native of Florida. I have found it in many places always near the beach or upon low mangrove shores of Islands." Before that, it is known that coconuts were all around the Caribbean for a good while, and indigenous peoples were no doubt trading them for many years, as it has been established that the species had arrived at the Pacific side of the isthmus sometime around 1200A.D. So the question becomes, when is something native, and why does that judgment have relevance if Mother Nature is always balancing and adjusting her ecosystems? And at this point, with the forests of the world being torched and mowed down, and our planet's carbon sink disappearing, is it ethical to cut down any plant that doesn't represent a real and present danger?

As you point out, the Florida platform was well underwater and had no terrestrial plant life until those waters receded. When I get into these discussions with strident folks in the Keys, I usually arrest them by mentioning one true and overwhelming native in the Keys, Acropora cervicornis. I then always have to mention that I'm referring to the staghorn coral that lived on that ground (and still lives just offshore)...and though an animal and not a plant, the main "landscape element," far longer than any of the plants we see today. The whole situation is exasperating and unfortunately it is always the most loud and aggressive, rather than the most knowledgeable or wise, who wind up running the show...and are incapable of seeing the "big picture" that in the end affects the lives of every creature that calls that place home.

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KDubU

This is just wrong. Somebody has nothing better to do up in Tallahassee obviously. Also always remember in gov, one has to use up all their budgeted funds otherwise they will get less the next year. 
 

 

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donalt

Native is anything that may have blown in or washed ashore and taken root...especially Florida, which has even been underwater in the past. This is an absurd legislative decree, obviously voted in by those who've probably never visited nor care to visit . I live in Florida, so I'm allowed to complain.

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teddytn

That’s the same logic as saying monarch butterflies aren’t native to the U.S. because they overwinter in Mexico. If coconuts get washed ashore, germinate and grow without human assistance how exactly can they be an “exotic/ invasive”? 

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aabell

I've noticed the native plant movement in Florida suffers from a bit of tunnel vision. 

Up north a native plant or tree is generally agreed to be "anything native to the Eastern NA temperate forest ecosystem." Not many people would cut down a catalpa or osage orange in Ohio even though the "true" native range is a few states away. State lines are arbitrary political boundaries after all, and who knows how far native people spread plants outside of their natural ranges.

But in Florida, there is a "FL native" movement that says a plant that is native to this state is always preferable to something from anywhere else. Now we have people who live in Miami are reverse zone pushing 9a plants from the panhandle while ripping out cuban or Carribean natives.

Of course invasive species are a major problem in Florida and probably the best argument for planting native. As a tropical plant enthusiast I like to think of south Florida as a natural extension of the Caribbean however, and I'd like to see a broader acceptance of Cuban and Bahamian plants in particular as "semi-native". 

I also look at something like the hated brown anole and think, are they really so exotic? They travelled such a short distance to get here. Maybe they wouldn't be here without humans but their presence seems so inevitable and irreversible. At a certain point we have to accept that these things are here and will always be here. And the coconuts are much less distruptive to the ecosystem than the lizards are. 

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ahosey01

They should have just ripped them out, rootball and all, and posted an ad for “free coconut palms to non-residents of Florida.”  All the zone-pushing PTers woulda mopped up within a day.

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Xerarch

I'm sympathetic to restoring habitats to "native" status, however I'm sure I don't trust the bureaucrats to make the determinations about what stays and what goes.  

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Darold Petty

Homo sapiens of Nordic ancestry are not native to Florida,   :winkie:

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Xerarch
6 minutes ago, Darold Petty said:

Homo sapiens of Nordic ancestry are not native to Florida,   :winkie:

For that matter neither are any humans right? I'm mean they all brought themselves there from somewhere else at some point in time, same goes for humans everywhere excluding of course any humans in the Great Rift Valley if that is indeed where humans originated.

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oasis371

Doesn't just about everything and everyone in Florida come from someplace else? What about that all them Fl. citrus?! None of them are "native".

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mnorell

Humans have a problem in that they tend to look at history in the space of at most a few lifetimes...a blip in terms of the history of our world, and even our relatively recent species. I was told by a "master gardener" type at the Key West Botanical Garden (I was buying "native" plants from her) that a native is anything that was in the Keys before the arrival of the English. I didn't want to get into a meaty argument with her (she being the type of snowbird that relocates permanently and suddenly and unbendingly knows all about their new home), but I had to shake my head at this attitude, which also bleeds into ongoing government attitudes about the arguably native/non-native green iguanas, which, like coconuts, have a very blurry origin in the Keys. 

One odd thing I have noticed in the Keys, where there is a really obsessive attitude in government about the control over planting and removal of plants...as an example, the silver buttonwood is a highly touted native in that it occurs naturally only in one tiny population, I believe in the Long Beach area of Big Pine Key or somewhere adjacent...and though of course this is a popular ornamental used for hedging and other purposes on a vast scale in South Florida due to man's intervention via the nursery industry, if I go to the nursery and purchase one, and plant it on my land, I am required to seek (and pay for) a permit to remove that "native" plant should I desire to do so in the future, even though I bought it, planted it, and it has never grown naturally on my area of Big Pine Key. There is such hysteria over plant removal permitting that the result now is counterproductive: when homeowners see a native plant sprouting or growing as a young plant or sapling, even in an area they might desire such a plant, they invariably rip them out before they are a few feet tall, with the logic that they would rather go to the nursery and buy something non-native, as they will never have to get a permit to remove something that is an "invasive exotic" (those two words apparently now permanently fused in Florida).

As regards the destroyed coconut trees, I think a call to the Miami Herald along with those photos might be a step in the right direction. People by and large love coconuts and they are a defining element in south Florida. I remember that at least one city (might have been Miami) was going to ban all coconuts from municipal plantings due to the current hysteria, but a public campaign put a stop to the policy. A newspaper can make a big difference in alerting the public to such activities.

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Jimbean
2 hours ago, Darold Petty said:

Homo sapiens of Nordic ancestry are not native to Florida,   :winkie:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windover_Archeological_Site

European DNA if my memory serves me correctly. 

 

I think the questions are:

The conceptual definition of native

The conceptual definition of invasive as opposed to non-native naturalization

Edited by Jimbean
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Silas_Sancona
12 minutes ago, Jimbean said:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windover_Archeological_Site

European DNA if my memory serves me correctly. 

DNA ( examined from brain tissue from the site ) indicated Asian origin,  ..Similar to that of the four other major Haplotypes of Native American peoples. and a relatively rare Haplotype "

No mention of any  European DNA anywhere in the linked article..

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ahosey01

As I do every time a topic turns to the discussion of "native" vs. "invasive" - I would direct everyone with interest and an open mind to read this book:

https://www.amazon.com/New-Wild-Invasive-Species-Salvation/dp/0807039551/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3L0IYVW0D2QLJ&keywords=the+new+wild&qid=1640022101&sprefix=the+new+wild%2Caps%2C316&sr=8-1

Definitely not for those of you who already know everything, however.

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Darold Petty

Jimbean, that's really interesting, thanks for the link !

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Silas_Sancona
Just now, ahosey01 said:

As I do every time a topic turns to the discussion of "native" vs. "invasive" - I would direct everyone with interest and an open mind to read this book:

https://www.amazon.com/New-Wild-Invasive-Species-Salvation/dp/0807039551/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3L0IYVW0D2QLJ&keywords=the+new+wild&qid=1640022101&sprefix=the+new+wild%2Caps%2C316&sr=8-1

Definitely not for those of you who already know everything, however.

:floor: Spoken like a good used car salesmen ..( creeps around what he assumes is an unsuspecting customer window shopping vehicles )  " Hey,  hey you.. i know you really want that car over there.. I hear everyone thinks it's great..  Just buy it already!!..

I'll be back to remind ( hound ) you in .4 minutes.. :mrlooney:

That Book / author is trash :greenthumb:

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ahosey01
41 minutes ago, Silas_Sancona said:

:floor: Spoken like a good used car salesmen ..( creeps around what he assumes is an unsuspecting customer window shopping vehicles )  " Hey,  hey you.. i know you really want that car over there.. I hear everyone thinks it's great..  Just buy it already!!..

I'll be back to remind ( hound ) you in .4 minutes.. :mrlooney:

That Book / author is trash :greenthumb:

One billion people could buy and read that book - or burn it for that matter - and I would be unaffected, no benefit nor loss.  The used car salesman analogy is funny but not relevant.

His central point is an interesting contention and is, quite obviously, taboo to the point that most people do not even consider it worthy of a meaningful and substantive rebuke, instead resorting to dismissive comments like yours (you’re like the 10th person who has said almost exactly that to me).

When there is unanimous agreement across an entire field on a subject, and when divergence from orthodoxy carries with it the potential for reaction that diverging from the native/invasive dichotomy does, everyone is made less intelligent by groupthink.  Disagreement should be grounded and fact-based - I.e. “He is wrong because he asserts X, but studies indicate this is untrue.”  “He sucks” never convinced anyone of anything.  Lest we forget there was a time in history you could be criminally liable for asserting the earth revolves around the sun.

Edited by ahosey01
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Looking Glass
4 minutes ago, ahosey01 said:

Lest we forget there was a time in history you could be criminally liable for asserting the earth revolves around the sun.

We are in that time.  It is our natural tendency to “burn the witch!”   Humans have not fundamentally changed since then, though our accumulated knowledge and technology is now better.  

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Silas_Sancona
4 minutes ago, ahosey01 said:

One billion people could buy and read that book - or burn it for that matter - and I would be unaffected, no benefit nor loss.  The used car salesman analogy is funny but not relevant.

His central point is an interesting contention and is, quite obviously, taboo to the point that most people do not even consider it worthy of a meaningful and substantive rebuke, instead resorting to dismissive comments like yours (you’re like the 10th person who has said almost exactly that to me).

When there is unanimous agreement across an entire field on a subject, and when divergence from orthodoxy carries with it the potential for reaction that diverging from the native/invasive dichotomy does, everyone is made less intelligent by groupthink.  Disagreement should be grounded and fact-based - I.e. “He is wrong because he asserts X, but studies indicate this is untrue.”  “he sucks” never convinced anyone of anything.  Lest we forget there was a time in history you could be criminally liable for asserting the earth revolves around the sun.

Differing opinions are great and can spur further thought on a topic, but, there's a difference.. in this case, Dude thinks oil exploration and mining are ok.. ( Sites like Oak Flat, and Rosemont ..Both sacred sites / important wildlife corridors here would be ok,  by his logic.. )

He also cherry picked through various things to put together his view, ..and is a journalist.. who writes about environmental things ( his thoughts on them anyway )  ..He's not an ecologist..

There may be a few good " thoughts " in his view, ..that actual ecologists have also shared..  but if 99% of his content is ..a clunker,  don't get scammed by it..  Fully embracing his view would be like standing on the corner w/ the annoying folk who protest with their megaphone across from the hospital here so often.. No one who actually thinks logically  ..does their fact checking... would join them..



 

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Xenon
14 hours ago, Silas_Sancona said:

A bit of a head scratcher for sure.. I mean if Coconuts have drifted to Florida shores ..from say the Cuba, the rest of the Caribbean / Yucatan for ..quite some time..  well before   Europeans arrived .. interesting they'd be  considered not native.   

Source? There is debate surrounding the presence of pre-Columbian coconuts on the Pacific coast of Panama (and possible Polynesian contact) but I haven't come across anything supporting pre-Columbian coconuts in the Caribbean/west Atlantic. Current consensus is that even coconuts in West Africa (and by extension the western Atlantic) are recent introductions via European dispersal from East Africa which derives its coconuts for the most part from trade with southern India (there is also some Melanesian-derived admixture from Austronesian settlement, especially in Madagascar). 

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Silas_Sancona
3 minutes ago, Xenon said:

Source? There is debate surrounding the presence of pre-Columbian coconuts on the Pacific coast of Panama (and possible Polynesian contact) but I haven't come across anything supporting pre-Columbian coconuts in the Caribbean/west Atlantic. Current consensus is that even coconuts in West Africa (and by extension the western Atlantic) are recent introductions via European dispersal from East Africa which derives its coconuts for the most part from trade with southern India (there is also some Melanesian-derived admixture from Austronesian settlement, especially in Madagascar). 

See @mnorell's first comment, to my comment regarding thoughts on " Potential " Pre- Columbian era Coconut distribution..  Agree, there is still much that needs to be solved on how Coconuts actually arrived in the Americas ( let alone N. America ).. 

Regardless, if they ( or any other organism ) washes up / is blown into / rafts it's way to Florida shores / waters  ( ...or any other shoreline, truthfully ) from anywhere in the Caribbean Basin ( ..or Western Mexico / Pacific islands, on this side of the country ) it should be considered native.. Even pesty things like Spiral Whitefly..

If Glossy Ibis can find their way across the Atlantic, then establish themselves in the Americas, -w/o  human assistance-, i wouldn't be surprised if Coconuts did as well.. Even if it turns out they did first appear in Panama, then gradually spread north / east across the region, ..on both the Pacific and the Caribbean / Gulf of Mexico sides of the country. To some degree, yea.. i'm sure native peoples of Central America moved them around too.. " Domesticate " Agave here in the Southwest is one of many great examples of that.. That said, I highly doubt every  coconut  that has ever  grown on Florida shores can be traced back to European ..let alone intentionally introduced human origin..
 

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Jimbean
2 hours ago, Silas_Sancona said:

DNA ( examined from brain tissue from the site ) indicated Asian origin,  ..Similar to that of the four other major Haplotypes of Native American peoples. and a relatively rare Haplotype "

No mention of any  European DNA anywhere in the linked article..

My mistake.  I saw somewhere that there was evidence of European DNA that predated the vikings in the middle ages that was found in North America. 

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Darold Petty

Let's all agree that we love Cocos, and wish that it would grow in more places !  :)

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Silas_Sancona
Just now, Jimbean said:

My mistake.  I saw somewhere that there was evidence of European DNA that predated the vikings in the middle ages that was found in North America. 

All good.. Definitely possible.. No expert for sure, but have heard the same thing,  perhaps such remains were discovered further up the eastern seaboard?  Hard to say.. but very curious myself..

Similar questions could be said regarding the Hawaiian Islands.. Most knowledge ( and what i was told of my heritage ) suggests ancestral Hawaiians originated in the S. Pacific / Asia.. I'm personally not 100% sold on that since people from South and Central America ..perhaps Mexico as well..  sailed the Pacific also..  Hard to imagine none landed on, then perhaps settled on any of the " Hawaiian " Islands at some point in time in the past.. 

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ChrisA

Personally, I'd be quite hesitant to visit any such park being a Homo sapiens also not native...  Their logic is terrible and has not basis in true sustainability, but rather of a political nature. Given climate change and change that has always been in the world it is species that survive and can thrive that create habitat and food for other life.  It reeks of a God-complex to decide what will live and what will die. 

 

Are they going to rip out the Sea Grapes as well?

 

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oasis371

As far as I know, seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) are "native" to S. Fl., but I may be forced to toss mine into the chiminea soon. LOL

84C431A6-090B-493F-B588-800106D505A0.jpeg

Edited by oasis371
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PalmTreeDude

It looks like those coconuts were the only tall plants on the dunes from your pictures. I bet a lot of bird species and other animals used them. 

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D Palm

I think the Python invasion has spurred the government to pay attention to “native vs not” species, plant and animal. I don’t mind seeing the occasional coco. However, I think it’s something tied to funding about preservation or something…

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Jim in Los Altos
15 hours ago, oasis371 said:

Doesn't just about everything and everyone in Florida come from someplace else? What about that all them Fl. citrus?! None of them are "native".

They’d rip those out too if they were on parkland. :(

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Eric in Orlando

This happens but then throughout Florida acres and acres of native woods and habitats are cut, bulldozed, scraped and burned every day. Then ugly, sterile development with the same 10 (mostly not native) plants are used to landscape with the turfgrass regularly dosed in chemicals. Totally makes sense to me.

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ahosey01
23 minutes ago, Eric in Orlando said:

This happens but then throughout Florida acres and acres of native woods and habitats are cut, bulldozed, scraped and burned every day. Then ugly, sterile development with the same 10 (mostly not native) plants are used to landscape with the turfgrass regularly dosed in chemicals. Totally makes sense to me.

Stop complaining and enjoy your golf courses, fast food and HOAs, tree hugger! <_<

I kid.  Some of the landscaping choices in the track home developments in AZ are pukeworthy.  They’ll plant jacarandas and ash trees in pure rock, probably pH 8.5 with near-zero organic content.  Or, they’ll plant nice, desert-native plants that are CLEARLY too big for their boxes.  Obviously this is problematic everywhere, but especially so with plant species like Prosopis that grow 200ft+ root systems to tap groundwater.  Then homeowners get sad when their mesquite falls over in a monsoon only 4 years after the house was built.  Truly a vicious cycle!

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Eric in Orlando
2 hours ago, ahosey01 said:

Stop complaining and enjoy your golf courses, fast food and HOAs, tree hugger! <_<

I kid.  Some of the landscaping choices in the track home developments in AZ are pukeworthy.  They’ll plant jacarandas and ash trees in pure rock, probably pH 8.5 with near-zero organic content.  Or, they’ll plant nice, desert-native plants that are CLEARLY too big for their boxes.  Obviously this is problematic everywhere, but especially so with plant species like Prosopis that grow 200ft+ root systems to tap groundwater.  Then homeowners get sad when their mesquite falls over in a monsoon only 4 years after the house was built.  Truly a vicious cycle!

:floor::yay::floor:

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Mikelzz

   Non-native. tree that is growing in my garden in , i mean ,....  somewhere, ..in Florida. .. please don't tell anyone .

( first photo 5/2019 .. second photo recently .. ) 

 

coconut new 5 19 (2).JPG

coconut chair 2 11 22 21.JPG

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Tyrone
On 12/20/2021 at 10:58 PM, Darold Petty said:

Homo sapiens of Nordic ancestry are not native to Florida,   :winkie:

I was thinking something similar Darold. Where do you draw the line in the non native debate. 

Up in QLD they have been saying the same thing about the coconut. But there is significant evidence to say it is a native plant up there that definitely predates white settlement. But the native nazis find it hard to believe that any palm in this country is a native, when in fact we have loads of them. 

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Scott W

Yeah, the discussion about Florida eradicating non-native plants came up a while back, and palms trees were a specific topic in many articles, in particular because they don't "sequester carbon and fight climate change".... 

As Eric said above....you want to fight climate change ...stop clear cutting forests by the thousands of acres.

But yeah, huge waste of resources to do this, especially in a state park and even more so when it no doubt destroyed other creatures habitat.  

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