Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports Into America [NOOK Book]

Overview

Aliens live among us. Thousands of species of nonnative flora and fauna have taken up residence within U.S. borders. Our lawns sprout African grasses, our roadsides flower with European weeds, and our homes harbor Asian, European, and African pests. Misguided enthusiasts deliberately introduced carp, kudzu, and starlings. And the American cowboy spread such alien life forms as cows, horses, tumbleweed, and anthrax, supplanting and supplementing the often unexpected ways "Native" Americans influenced the ...
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Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports Into America

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Overview

Aliens live among us. Thousands of species of nonnative flora and fauna have taken up residence within U.S. borders. Our lawns sprout African grasses, our roadsides flower with European weeds, and our homes harbor Asian, European, and African pests. Misguided enthusiasts deliberately introduced carp, kudzu, and starlings. And the American cowboy spread such alien life forms as cows, horses, tumbleweed, and anthrax, supplanting and supplementing the often unexpected ways "Native" Americans influenced the environment. Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports into America recounts the origins and impacts of these and other nonindigenous species on our environment and pays overdue tribute to the resolve of nature to survive in the face of challenge and change.

In considering the new home that imported species have made for themselves on the continent, John Leland departs from those environmentalists who universally decry the invasion of outsiders. Instead, Leland finds that uncovering stories of aliens’ arrivals and assimilation is a more intriguing-and ultimately more beneficial-endeavor. While he does lament such storied ravagers as the chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, and gypsy moth, Leland also posits that the majority of nonnative plants and animals, much like their human counterparts, go about the business of existence and reproduction without threat to the world around them.

Mixing natural history with engaging anecdotes, Leland cuts through patriotic and problematic myths coloring our grasp of the natural world and suggests that the stories of how these alien species have reshaped our landscape are as much a part of the continent’s heritage as tales of our presidents and politics. Simultaneously, he poses questions about which, if any, of our accepted icons is truly American (not apple pie or Kentucky bluegrass; not Idaho potatoes or Boston ivy). Written with a genuine appreciation for nature’s resiliency, Leland’s ode to survival reveals how plant and animal immigrants have made the country as much an environmental melting pot as its famed melding of human cultures, and he invites us to reconsider what it means to be American.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leland writes, "[T]he wilderness is gone and the word native nearly meaningless," and he has accumulated anecdotes on innumerable foreign plants and animals to make the point. Despite the sweeping statement, this is not an especially provocative book. It's a loosely organized compendium of facts on-or merely tangentially related to-flora and fauna that have traveled to, or within, the U.S. Even the coyote figures here, having expanded far beyond its pre-Columbian territory in Mexico and the Great Plains. Quick dips into this are entertaining: Leland is a lively writer and has amassed a mountain of research, pulling in everything from the Thugs of India (in a discussion of jimsonweed) to Archy, Don Marquis's poetic cockroach. Reading more than a few pages at a time, however, is overwhelming: the author offers no overarching principle or line of argument. Leland (Poacher's Creek), a professor of English at Virginia Military Institute, mentions scientific controversies on species' taxonomy or origin, but never delves into the science of invasions. The chapters on psychoactive plants and the environmental impact of Native Americans are particularly interesting, but this won't satisfy readers seeking understanding rather than information overload. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611172133
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 248
  • File size: 4 MB

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
As American as Apple Pie: An Introduction to Weeds
Out of Africa: How Slavery Transformed the American Landscape and Diet
A Green Nightmare: The Un-American Lawn
A Sow’s Ear from a Silk Purse: The Legacy of Sericulture
Psychedelic Gardens: What Grandmother Grew in Her Backyard
Bad Air and Worse Science: Malaria’s Gifts to America
Bioterror: Older Than You Think
Cowboys: And Their Alien Habits
. . . and Indians: Less Native Than You Think
An Entangled Bank: Roadside Weeds
House Pests: Some of Those Who Share Your Quarters
It Seemed a Good Idea at the Time: The Well-intentioned Ecological Disaster
Misplaced Americans: As Rootless as the Humans Who Invited Them In
Gone Fishin’: An Unnatural Pastime
Notes
Index
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