This Carnivorous Plant Invaded New York. That May Be Its Only Hope.

The waterwheel lives a double life: facing extinction in its native habitat even as it creeps into places where it doesn’t belong.


Comments: 33

  1. Let's hope it's not the new Kudzu which was also purposely introduced into the US. I guess some people cannot learn from past mistakes that caused current disasters.

  2. @jcs My first thought when I read this article was Kudzu. I grew up in East TN and it was everywhere, choking out native plants.

  3. @jcs Yup. Like Japanese Knotweed (ugh).

  4. World climate is in peril, and when the climate changes, plants and animals need to migrate in order to survive. Ecosystems will have to change. We need to start thinking long-term. I know it sounds strange to let invasive species remain invasive, but in terms of evolution, an invasive species will inevitably create new habitats that may weather climate change better than current habitats. According to many climatologists, biologists and botanists, life on earth is undergoing mass extinction. If we can mitigate this by helping plants and animals find habitats they can thrive in, I'd say that's better than letting them die in the place where they evolved.

  5. @Stephen What happens when invasive species threaten native species? Cats have wiped out, or threaten to wipe out, numerous species of birds and marsupials in Australia. Mountain goats, introduced into Olympic National Park, had to removed because they were destroying mountain vegetation and eliminating food sources for marmots and other native creatures. Rats have destroyed virtually all native bird species in Guam. Plants can be just as destructive.

  6. @Stephen So should we move polar bears to Antarctica?

  7. @Kaleberg I'm not saying that we should just start moving plants and animals on a whim. I know all too well what invasive species can do to native life. Cheatgrass, carp, mussels and even horses have wreaked havoc on the interior west. What I mean is that if we can help fill a niche by doing something like planting wild rye where wild wheat once grew, it might help preserve the existing habitat, or restore a preexisting one by providing a food source.

  8. Scary. We really don’t begin to have a grip on “invasive species”.

  9. Conservation really is conservative. Does it have a progressive side?

  10. @rjon: Real conservationists shudder at the current political definition of "conservative". Conservationists are cognizant about nature and concerned about it. It is our only habitat.

  11. Carnivorous invasive plants deliberatly introducd into our ecosystem! God, didn't these people learn ANYTHING from watching “The Little Shop Of Horors”?

  12. There are bogs in northern Minnesota where pitcher plants and sundews, two kinds of carnivorous plants, thrive. Three places are near Bemidji, in Big Bog just north of Red Lake, and along the Superior Hiking Trail. The most well-known carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap, grows naturally only in southeastern North Carolina and adjacent parts of South Carolina.

  13. This is an allegory for us humans as climate change and human mismanagement and war decimates the natural environments of people so they too face the need to move to new environments to survive and our government, and many in Europe, see this mass migration exactly as the scientists describe the appearance of an "invasive species." Let us hope we show as much concern for the survival and flourishing of endangered members of our own species as biologists do for the waterwheel and urge Mr. Trump to tear down that wall.

  14. May be we should stop the conservation efforts for any or all species (plant or animal) and we will find them some where else, thousands of miles away as an invasive species (of plant or animal). I agree that it applies to us lovely humans too.

  15. Waterwheels are VERY effective at killing mosquito larvae (at least in a lab). They can also survive in ponds too polluted for fish (like the "stinky discharge basin" with sewer worms and algae blooms mentioned in this article.) If waterwheels reduce mosquitoes in our human-polluted waters significantly, and humans reduce spraying insecticides in response, and bug populations increase, and then bird populations have more to eat, and then ... This is complicated, is what I'm saying. Let's not rush to judgement about an organism that can reduce mosquito larvae under polluted conditions. And I feel it's important to remember that humans are a real, integral part of the whole ecology when we're around--we have to take our own likely behavior into account, too.

  16. Imagine instead of talking about an aquatic plant we were talking about coral. If we found that local species were dying and yet a new hardier version from another part of the world could fill its niche, what should be done? Now imagine we were discussing humans. And robots.

  17. The coral is a not-so hypothetical situation, since there are corals in the South Pacific that are adapted to higher temperatures and might be able to support hundreds of non-introduced species in imperiled reefs in more temperate areas. Testing this would be hard, though, so it seems likely nothing will be done.

  18. @Southern It's kind the opposite, really. The analogy would be more along the lines of "Imagine that local coral species were dying, but could thrive in another part of the world at the risk of potentially unbalancing or displacing the native species there. What should be done?" The question remains morally ambiguous.

  19. So these biologists can across waterwheels. These plants are rare because most of them have been destroyed. So some people think that these waterwheels are history. So maybe these biologists can find something new in this waterwheel. She why they are mostly not around anymore and see what is harming them. Also see if they will be a harm to us and the waters.

  20. This dilemma is an example of the absurdity of the native plant movement that arbitrarily decides “what belongs here” and destroys everything they decide doesn’t belong here. You will find similar dilemmas all over the world. Plants are being designated as “invasive” without doing a cost-benefit analysis. The decision that dooms plants is based almost entirely on whether or not it is native to a specific location. It doesn’t matter if it is extinct in its native range. It doesn’t matter is it’s not crowding out native species or posting economic, ecological or health risks (as is the case for this particular plant according to this article). It doesn’t matter if herbicides are the only way to kill it. It doesn’t matter if herbicides will also kill everything else. It doesn’t matter if is performing valuable ecological functions such as feeding wildlife. Climate change and global commerce have rendered the concept of “native” meaningless. Only the hubris of humans and their delusional belief they can control nature keeps it alive. BEWARE: Native plant advocates will demand that this comment be deleted. Please don't acquiesce to their demand for censorship.

  21. The real invasive species is humans.

  22. Rapid micro-evolution may explain why the aterwheel thrives in "alien" enviornments. I wonder whether the US version(s) of the waterwheel have a a few genetic differences from their ancestors.

  23. Complete negligence and stupidity to introduce this invasive plant into the US. This article makes me very angry that the actions of a few completely selfish people - 'he didn't realize what he was doing at the time' (really??) have created severe consequences in our ponds and waterways. The thug administration has just gutted our critical Endangered Species Act and trying to wipe out exotic and invasive plants like this is the last thing we need to be focusing on. This continues to prove humans destroy everything.

  24. @TripleJRanch If the plant is endangered world wide, why wouldn't we welcome it to the US?

  25. Because they pose the risk of disrupting the environment and supplanting native species.

  26. Amazing what Mother Nature has in her bag of tricks. I live in Bogota where we have an exceptionally well run, well maintained, well landscape Botanical Garden. As an advertisement, if you happen to be here - don't miss it. Just last month, we had a carnivorous plant show. Most of them were pitcher plants or venus traps but some of them were so small that they had offered a magnifying glass to study features. But some pitchers were almost a foot long. A young volunteer offered to display venus trap. He told me that it has these fine set of two hairs. If one senses an intrusion the other hair confirms it. And it automatically shuts itself firmly. He showed by tickling one and sure enough - it slammed shut. He also told me that if a false alarm like this simulation- the trap shuts for 2 days. If a real prey - it stays shut for over a week. When I lived in Indonesia - in Sumatra - they had pitcher plant that could hide a human - so big. Next time, we have a show, I will ask about this species. Thanks.

  27. Amazing what Mother Nature has in her bag of tricks. I live in Bogota where we have an exceptionally well run, well maintained, well landscape Botanical Garden. As an advertisement, if you happen to be here - don't miss it. Just last month, we had a carnivorous plant show. Most of them were pitcher plants or venus traps but some of them were so small that they had offered a magnifying glass to study features. But some pitchers were almost a foot long. A young volunteer offered to display venus trap. He told me that it has these fine set of two hairs. If one senses an intrusion the other hair confirms it. And it automatically shuts itself firmly. He showed by tickling one and sure enough - it slammed shut. He also told me that if a false alarm like this simulation- the trap shuts for 2 days. If a real prey - it stays shut for over a week. When I lived in Indonesia - in Sumatra - they had pitcher plant that could hide a human - so big. Next time, we have a show, I will ask about this species. Thanks.

  28. Looks like it would be a threat to fish fry or possibly to eggs. I don't want to see it in our salmon or trout watersheds!!!!

  29. The Trump EPA should declare it threatened and make it a crime to injure it or develop its habitat. Where are the environmentalists?

  30. Burmese pythons, Asian cockroaches, Asian carp and I am not sure what else has come across.

  31. I think that the people of New York City should do whatever it takes to get rid of this plant. It is an invasive species and does not belong in New York City. It evolved and belongs in a different environment.

  32. Unbelievably irresponsible. There should be stiff criminal penalties for introducing non native species to new environment.

  33. Some decades ago homeowners on Fire Island planted some exotic trees that have proliferated so much that unless some action is taken soon a few decades from now the Pines might as well be renamed the Bamboo.