Friday, March 27, 2009

Exotic Plants and Disconnected Solar Panels

I tried googling exotic plants and disconnected solar panels, but didn't get much, despite the fact that they have a lot in common. Both plants and solar panels convert solar energy into forms that can be used in natural or human economies. A plant, if wildlife finds its leaves edible, transfers that captured solar energy up the food chain, from leaf to butterfly larva to bird. Solar panels transfer captured solar energy into a grid, to feed the machine world.

The leaves of exotic plant species--those that did not evolve in this area--are generally not edible to local wildlife. Many insect species, for instance, have become over countless millenia very specialized in their tastes, and will only eat certain native species. The energy captured in the foliage of most exotic plants, therefore, does not get transferred up the food chain. In that way, planting exotic plants in the yard is much like installing solar panels that remain unplugged.

The question can come up as to why one would want to plant something in the yard that's just going to get devoured by the local insect life, but there seems to be a balance struck. A few leaves are sacrificed, but the general appearance is not affected. I had one swamp milkweed plant stripped by monarch butterfly larvae, but that's been the exception. The response to that serendipitous "problem" was to plant more milkweeds, so there'd be plenty to go around the next year.

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