Invasive Species Tire of Bad Press; Sue

Allison Loudermilk

This perky little birds may turn things around for invasive species. (Photo courtesy USGS)

Invasive species are tired of all the bad press and have finally appealed to the U.S. judicial system for respite. Until I read Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow's "Don't Sweat the Invasion" post on Slate, I, too, was a hater. In my defense, as an amateur gardener and resident of the South,* it's hard to like kudzu or English ivy -- both notorious invasive plant species in the Southeastern U.S. -- when they maintain a death grip on your tulip poplar. Or when your neighbor ignores them, and they sprout cheerfully through the fence for the zillionth time. Or when the unwelcome species is, say, a Burmese python.

But the web of biological diversity laughs in the face of such simple-minded thinking. For every green and white tendril of English ivy that mocks me, some other organism is counting on it as a source of food or shelter -- even if it's a cockroach (ugh). Nobody's going to get too upset if the home of a cockroach disappears, but swap out the cockroach for an endangered bird, and suddenly things are looking brighter for invasive species.

The endangered bird in question is the southwestern willow flycatcher, a fetching avian specimen that likes to nest in - duh, duh, duh - the tamarisk, a shrub that makes the U.S. National Parks Service's least-wanted list, a dubious honor if ever there were one. Accordingly, the Parks Service has tried to eliminate the pesky shrub by introducing a beetle that likes feasting on its leaves.

Not so fast, said the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Aubudon Society, the de facto defenders of the songbird and other endangered species. Eliminate the tamarisk and you could eliminate the flycatcher, the groups said. And the U.S. Department of Justice agreed, at least as far as I could discern amid all the government jargon and legalese. It seems as though this particular invasive species may have bought itself a little more time (and maybe a little respect?) in these unwelcome lands.

Score one for the tamarisk. And if you're curious about which invasive species flourish in your area, you can check out the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. And thanks to Katie Lambert for passing this one on.

Read more about all species great and small at Burmese Pythons Retire to South Florida How Cockroaches Work Are frogs on the brink of extinction? What brought bison back from the brink of extinction? How Kudzu Works

*I've been wondering, how many years does it take before you get to call yourself a Southerner, a New Yorker, etc.? And does having acquired an accent help your cause?