Ministry of Controversy

Peter del Tredici Talks about Urban Ecology

Thomas Christopher’s recent post about Peter del Tredici’s Wild Urban Plants of the  Northeast:  A Field Guide prompts me to post this video of his talk for the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Peter was also profiled here on GardenRant after his 2010 talk to the ASLA annual conference.

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 at 10:14 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.

8 responses to “Peter del Tredici Talks about Urban Ecology”

  1. Paul Caron says:

    I’m glad he was well received, Mary, even if I disagree with his opinion, to a degree. I believe the alternative, which he speaks of, is one of non-natives, often invasives, taking more and more space. This will eventually lead to wild areas being harmed. I work in Los Angeles, so I know the feeling. Maybe we cannot have a pristine native environment again, but we can work for small victories.

  2. Mary McAllister says:

    Thanks for posting the video of Peter Del Tredici’s presentation at the San Francisco Presidio. I had the pleasure of attending his presentation. It was brave of him to give that presentation to that particular audience. The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotbed of nativism and no land manager has carried that ideology to more of an extreme than the Presidio. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that he was well received.

    After 25 years of attempting to eradicate non-native plants and trees on public lands in the Bay Area, some are prepared to admit that destroying non-native plants does not “restore” native plants. With few exceptions, these projects fail, unless the objective was even more weeds.

    As Del Tredici says, it takes intensive gardening effort to compensate for changes in the environment. Successful projects are intensively planted, irrigated, fenced, sprayed with herbicides and/or constantly weeded. The public is increasingly alarmed by the quantities of herbicides required by these projects.

  3. Paul Caron says:

    I found Peter’s talk fascinating, even though I disagreed on several foundational concepts. He equated gardening to ecological restoration, and that we are playing God when we remove invasives. In a way I suppose that is true. However, I see it more as a minimizing the impact we are having on the environment. We are simply attempting to make up for the mistakes that have allowed in-roads for these invasives, that without us, would never have settled in an area.

    Also, the functionality of invasives is NOT as high as natives, in so much as the vertebrates and invertebrates of a given area have not evolved with these invasives and typically get much less out of them. This is especially the case with highly specialized species, such as solitary bees. By bringing back the natives, we are attempting NOT to play God, and allow the extirpation of whole populations of fauna from an area.

    Ecological restoration is more important now, than ever.

  4. Beth Urie says:

    The ‘taste’ of this rationalization (non-native invasives beyond our ability … etc) has taken time to ponder. Both consideration of the article/video and use of this weird weather spell to work controlling buckthorn and oriental honeysuckle in our managed woodland, I’m going to resist discouragement and continue to ‘weed’. It does make a difference to the native habitat preserved, not to mention this gardeners soul.

  5. Marcia says:

    “Not too long ago, if you wanted to have a meadow on your fancy estate, it would have been frowned upon and misunderstood,” Travis Beck, director of horticulture at the Mt. Cuba Center and author of “Principles of Ecological Landscape Design,” told Salon. “But now Westchester County in New York, the Berkshires, and other hoity-toity locales are tying up the most accomplished designers of wild meadows and other naturalized landscapes. As more of the world gets paved over, natural beauty becomes a more treasured resource.”

    And, in England, driveways are killing butterflies. A study to be released this Spring shows that Britain’s urban butterfly population is down 69% in 2 decades. (Rural down, but “only” 45%.) “Urban areas are under massive pressure. People are paving over gardens for drives or patios.” Del Tredici may like his heavily modified wetland, but without the sound of insects, I’m not that interested in visiting it.

  6. Mary Gray says:

    Laura, I don’t get that sense of hopelessness from Peter. Planting natives in a suburban yard seems like a different undertaking than the large scale urban situations he’s talking about. If millions of people began to “re-wild” their yards to some extent it does seem like that would have at least some impact on species diversity. I am not sure but I don’t think he would consider home gardeners planting natives to be a fruitless act. My takeaway is simply one of awe for the incredible adaptability of the plant kingdom.

  7. Laura Munoz says:

    Del Tredici’s talk was certainly thought-provoking. Doesn’t chaos beget more chaos? According to Del Tredici, if I’m hearing him correctly, there is no going back and ecological control is only an illusion. I think he’s right. So in the end, planting a bunch of used-to-be natives in a yard is useless because humans have made too many changes to the ecosystem. Saving species (plants and animals) that aren’t able to adapt is in many way fruitless if you take this one step further. It makes me sad.

  8. Mary Gray says:

    This was fascinating. It is so interesting to compare people’s emotional reactions to nonnative plants that pop up in urban areas. A very common reaction seems to be disgust and intolerance, but Peter’s talk certainly opens up a whole new understanding of these plants. Thanks for sharing the video!

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