Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports into America

Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports into America

by John Leland
     
 
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

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 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

ForeWord Review's 2005 Popular Culture Book of the Year

From the innocuous morning glory to the British-supplied deadly smallpox that purposely decimated Native American tribes, nearly every plant, animal, fish, bird, insect, and weed that is either taken for granted or cursed as a nuisance has an intriguing story to tell. . . . How such interlopers got here, and the ways in which both they and society have adapted to their presence, is provocatively and entertainingly revealed in Leland's engrossing look at the backstory behind the more notorious as well as the most mundane flora and fauna one can encounter.
Booklist

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. . . . The chapters on psychoactive plants and the environmental impact of Native Americans are particularly interesting.
Publishers Weekly

Rich in detail and accessibly written, Leland's book will delight serious gardeners who may wonder about the origins of the plants they so carefully cultivate. Even the non-botanical reader can take pleasure in the unusual, unlikely, and downright strange ways in which so many plants and animals have been introduced to America.
Columbia (S.C.) State

Aliens in the Backyard takes readers on a fine ramble through the fact and fiction, lore and legend of introduced species, covering everything from the boll weevil to the ailanthus tree, accidental and deliberate introductions, and species that came by themselves. Leland's account contains solid biological information but also odd facts and curious consequences that should have readers turning the pages and, once they finish, looking at the plants and animals around them with a new understanding.
Thomas R. Dunlap, author of Saving America's Wildlife: Ecology and the American Mind, 1850-1990

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781570039584
Publisher:
University of South Carolina Press
Publication date:
08/15/2010
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

John Leland
"Go fishing. Sure, you’re an alien, your cane pole’s an alien, the worm you’ll use is an alien, the fish you’ll catch is an alien, and the pond it’s in is unnatural. But that’s the American way. We’re all strangers in a strange land."
from Aliens in the Backyard
Thomas R. Dunlap
"Aliens in the Backyard takes readers on a fine ramble through the fact and fiction, lore and legend of introduced species, covering everything from the boll weevil to the ailanthus tree, accidental and deliberate introductions, and species that came by themselves. Leland’s account contains solid biological information but also odd facts and curious consequences that should have readers turning the pages and, once they finish, looking at the plants and animals around them with a new understanding."
author of Saving America’s Wildlife: Ecology and the American Mind, 1850-1990

Meet the Author


John Leland is the author of Learning the Valley: Excursions into the Shenandoah Valley and Porcher's Creek: Lives between the Tides, second-place winner in the 2003 Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Leland is a professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

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