The Invasiveness of Native Plant People

Version 4.1 Spring 2024
By Pam Walatka
San Francisco Bay Area, California


People who favor native plants are invading our local, state, and national governments, spending taxpayer dollars on the destruction of our environment.

Nativists mean well

Native-plant people tend to be intelligent, well-educated, environmentally conscientious, and civic minded. They may be respectable, but they have been captured by a bad concept. The nativists I know are nice people, with good intentions, but their mistaken beliefs about nature make them dangerously invasive.

Native-plant people sincerely believe that plants that grew here long ago are superior to newer plants. They hate eucalyptus trees because they originally came from Australia. Nativist passion for nativist theory blinds them to the good provided by non-natives, and blinds them to the harm done by their methods of destruction. Forgive them, they are blinded by passion. But they are wrong.

photo of eucalyptus-grove
Photo © Pam Walatka

The hate came before the danger.

I lived in California for half a century without ever hearing anything about the danger of eucalyptus. Not. One. Single. Word. When the native-plant concept took hold, eucalyptus trees were an easy target for nativist hate. Everyone knows eucalyptus trees are imported. The early nativists of course hated eucs, and then people started talking about the dangers of eucs. The hatred came before the danger.

Nativists cite the fire hazard of eucalyptus trees as a reason to eliminate them, without weighting the good that big trees do for the environment. Big trees contribute oxygen to the environment and sequester carbon. I look forward to evidence-based studies about the relative benefits of eucalyptus groves compared to the grasslands and thistle fields that grow where eucalyptus have been destroyed.

True, eucalyptus can be quite alarming when on fire, but how often do they catch on fire, compared to how often they contribute fog-drip to dampen down the flammables below them? Are the areas where eucalyptus have been removed really safer than they were when the trees were thriving? Certainly they are less beautiful.

photo of thistles
Photo © Pam Walatka
A lovely little grove of eucalyptus was cut down for this patch of thistles.

The deforestation project in the San Francisco Bay Area East Bay Hills was unnatural, and certainly non-organic; the project included vast quantities of herbicide. Anyone who buys organic food should object to projects that use herbicides. Organic food is food grown without pesticides or herbicides. Nativists use herbicides to eradicate non-natives. Do we want that?

Eucalyptus trees tend to be beautiful and magnificent. Are we willing to let invasive nativists cut them down with chain saws and pour herbicides on their stumps?

Nativism is unsupported by science

So far, the serious research that has been done tends to contradict the nativist attack on big trees. A study (here) by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, in 2017, concludes, after careful study, that cutting down trees (fuel reduction) is the wrong way to combat wildfires.

Nor is nativism in general supported by science. An essay in the scientific journal Nature, Don't judge species on their origins, [June 09, 2011, pp 153-154] says "Conservationists should assess organisms on environmental impact rather than on whether they are natives."

The native plant concept is unnatural. Nature moves forward, never backward! Nature designs plants to spread to new territories, as a survival mechanism. We humans are part of nature, and we help nature survive in new places.

Scientific studies supporting eucalyptus removal have not yet been done. Granted, studies have shown that eucalyptus are highly flammable compared to other trees. But what about compared to grass-and-shrub land? Let us not jump to conclusions before we have the evidence.

Future evidence-based research will compare:

  1. Areas of naturally growing eucalyptus
  2. Areas where the eucalyptus have been eliminated with chain saws and herbicide
  3. Areas where eucalyptus have been trimmed to eliminate low branches, and the ground below them has been cleared of ladder fuel
As yet, there is no evidence-based research to compare these options. Without evidence, I cannot say which will be proven to be the safest. My guess is that evidence will support #3, trimming eucalyptus.


Until we have evidence, mass killing of trees and other plants should be postponed. Deforestation plans, though favored by well-meaning people, are unscientific, unnatural, non-organic, expensive, and wrong. Can we stop this invasiveness?

Like terrorists, native plant people sincerely believe their ideological goals justify killing.

Pam Portugal Walatka is a former technical author for the NASA Advanced Supercomputing division. For several years, she was NASA's #1 best-selling software documentation author.



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