From: Anagha Dahr (
Date: Thurs, 20 Oct 1999 09:35:11
To: Brian Farley (
Subject: Conversation with Tennessee DOT


An update on my phone conversation with Ralph Gorlin, Director of our state DOT. I called to talk about those California poppies they planted along the southeast side of the park after they widened the highway there. Ralph said, and I quote him, "Anagha, everyone loves California poppies. The public thinks they are beautiful. We love them. They are easy to plant, good for erosion control, grow fast, and are cheap. Survival of the fittest and competition - isnít that what natural selection is all about? Donít they increase the biodiversity of the park if they end up in there? Isnít biodiversity what you park naturalists are trying to protect?"

I know that some folks believe that exotics can play an important ecological role in urban landscapes, especially when indigenous species are absent or niches are unfilled. But I just have a hard time seeing how exotics can fit into our preservation management plan for the park. Or the city.

How are we ever going to impress upon these folks that scientists have a process for determining whether or not a non-indigenous species might pose a threat to natural areas? Is it too much to ask if the plant is invasive elsewhere, what its native range is, how it reproduces, how rapidly it grows, how easily the seeds germinate, or whether it is related to other species that are already invasive?

I wish we had an easy way to quantify the damage caused in natural areas by exotics so that we could convince employees of these various government agencies and politicians to pay attention. They seem to only care when agriculture, industry, or human health is at risk. But what about the loss of REAL biodiversity?

How do you suggest I follow up with Ralph?