Rant for Rant: About the "I" Word

The term "invasive" really steams me when improperly used, and I'll try to explain why.
This rant was triggered by "the Trouble with the Word Invasive" by Susan Harris in her Garden Rant.

I hardly got past Susan's fourth paragraph when I had to see for myself how the "I" word has been misused. You can tell this name calling is seriously out of hand when trust-worthy organizations like these send the wrong message. Just look at the logos linked to this exhausting if not exhaustive list of "invasive" plant species.

The trouble with lists like these--besides the fact that so many trusted groups have put their name on it--is that, unless you know the finer points of genus, species, and hardiness, you are very likely to misunderstand it. For example, two species of the genus Ornithogalum are on the list. The casual reader might understand it to say that all species of Ornithogalum are invasive, when that is not the case with O. magnum or many of the tropical species, one of which I wrote about recently. Absent from the list is poison ivy, or Toxicodendron radicans, a North American native that we settlers have been trying to eradicate since the first human suffered from its irritating oil.  

While I'm not a fan of qualifiers, the paragraph preceding the list (shown below), could have been made more correct by adding "some."
The following species have been reported to be invasive in some natural areas in the U.S. Species native to the U.S. are included when they are invasive in areas well outside their known natural ranges, as a result of human activities. For more information on each species, including the listing sources, images, and distribution maps, click on the species.


I shy away from the term "invasive" as if it were a four-letter word. I'll use "pushy," and usually follow that term up with, "in my garden." Did we forget that poison ivy is a native? Or witnessed a bee shying away from a flower because it's a hybrid from out of town?

As for deer: According to the National Park Service, deer were imported from Michigan into Indiana to make hunters happy. The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) lives throughout Indiana, although historically, the deer population declined dramatically after the Europeans arrived, and by 1884, deer were becoming quite rare. Deer were reintroduced in Indiana in 1934 and, by 1966, were present in all counties in the state. So that clears (or muddies) things up from the Indiana standpoint.

One last thought before I take a breath and get on with my life. Members of the scientific community need to sit down and come up with a definition of the term before bandying it about so freely.

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