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Monday, May 16, 2005

Kudzu, stealth invader

Yesterday's post showed a photo of a kudzu leaf, and remarked that the plant is not native to the Southeastern U. S., even though it sometimes seems that it covers that section of the world.

Apparently kudzu was brought here by Japanese exhibitors. As a flourishing plant, with fragrant flowers, it attracted attention, and it wasn't long before it was being grown here.

There's a biological lesson in this. It often happens that organisms brought in to a new area thrive, and change the environment significantly, because there are no animals present in the new area whose role in life is to eat them, or parasitize them. That doesn't always happen, but it happens too often. I am aware of a few examples, including rabbits and other animals in Australia, kudzu, starlings, English sparrows, Russian thistles, giant Salvinia, lampreys, nutria and water hyacinths. No doubt there are many more. Some might say that the introduction of Old World humans into the New World from the East is another example of this!

Like kudzu, often the introductions have been deliberate, and probably never with the intention of radically changing the biological community, but for aesthetic reasons, or even to control other organisms.

The biological lesson is that we should be very careful what we are doing, and probably, in most cases, let things be as they are.

There's a spiritual lesson, too, of course. Some things don't belong in our brains. They may be brought there because they look or sound good, or just without thinking carefully about what we are doing, but end up destroying or displacing that which is good. See Philippians 4:8, which describes the things which we should put in our brains, and, by implication, what we should not. See also James 1:13-15, which tells of the consequences of letting sin into our lives. Like kudzu, it isn't supposed to be there. Like kudzu, it can flourish, and destroy the good that is there.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8, ASV.

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