Yesterday, I enjoyed the beautiful spring morning with a short walk on the Bluff trail at Kincaid Park. My experience was slightly marred by an unsightly series of signs posted along the trail — I counted six — informing whomever that the municipality was planning to poison Mayday trees along the bluff. I had to wonder why.
Some internet sleuthing revealed that the tree, native to northern Europe and Asia, is both decorative and mostly harmless, although it can apparently be toxic to moose if consumed in large quantities. The fruit is readily eaten by birds and other animals which spread the seeds. The Wikipedia article claims that the dried fruit is used for human consumption in Russia.
A website named “Arctic Focus” had an informative article titled “Mayday trees, the beautiful bullies of the Arctic,” which cited the species’ ability to push out native trees like aspen and willow. OK, moose love willows; we don’t want our moose deprived of a food source, I suppose, although moose seem to survive in Russia just fine.
Larger issue crossed my mind, however: How do we decide which “immigrants” are desirable and which must be controlled? What is the criterion here — utility, appearance? Apparently not. “Nativeness” would appear to be the marker. “Foreignness” would seem to be the most undesirable characteristic of the European bird cherry. A rather different standard than we apply to most things.
— Warren C. Metzger
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