I like swamps. Swamps are not eye catching so no one brags about how pretty their swamp is. But they are beautiful.
We humans like pretty things. So we manicure the shoreline of our lakes and dump roundup to rid them of any vegetation except Kentucky blue grass. Then we weed wack in the adjacent water to rid it of that unsightly wild rice or those obtrusive lily pads. The fate of ducks, frogs and fish may or may not ever cross our minds but things sure look pretty at our barbecues.
Cornfields once needed cultivation in order to reduce weed growth that might compete with the emerging cornstalks. Even then some weed growth would emerge later in the season but only after the corn was well established and it didn’t prevent the corn crop. Now, cultivation is rarely practiced and any field with incidental weed growth come harvest is considered dirty. Thanks to herbicides, we now have pretty corn fields.
Hunters are sometimes fond of planting food plots. They don’t necessarily provide more quality food for the deer than if the same area was simply mowed to allow natural forbs and wildflowers to grow. In fact, ragweed is highly nutritious for the deer and readily eaten by them. Plus, natural vegetation grows more reliably and requires no soil additives. But natural vegetation is not as pretty as a food plot.
Meanwhile, field mice and pheasants go missing from our landscape and ducks from our fall flights. Frogs croak less and fish lack the vegetative cover in their nesting areas. Deer munch the chickory and clover we plant for them..if the crop emerges. But they would’ve munched the wildflowers, wild lettuce and ragweed that certainly would’ve grown if we just allowed it.
So, I think of swamps. Plain old swamps. They provide abundant habitat for all sorts of fauna. They help us avoid erosion and flooding and help us have cleaner water. Swamps are carbon sinks. They are boring, perhaps. And they are not pretty. But swamps are beautiful.
Daniel Blake copyright September 30, 2019