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Snowbirds, Exotics, & Other Interlopers

It’s early morning. A curl of foam rushes to shore carrying sea beans and the egg case of a skate while a sandpiper runs after the flotsam on twinkling feet. How beautiful Vero Beach is, I think, unspoiled and natural, with no oil slicks, no rusting illegal pipes flushing sewage into the dunes, no high-rise canyons to block the shoreline.

Then I remind myself not to get too parochial, that little of what I admire is indigenous, like the sand running through my fingers, mixed with clay washed down from the hills of Georgia, or the palms which likely took root from coconuts drifting on the currents.

Naturalists call interlopers exotics. Some exotics were imported like the melaleuca cultivated to drain our wetlands in the belief that swamp air carried malaria and yellow fever. The Australian pine, which tends to topple in high winds, was introduced as a windbreaker. Some exotics arrived as gifts; the rafts of purple hyacinths that choked our canals and uprooted our wooden bridges, began as favors given out by the Japanese during the 1888 New Orleans Cotton Exhibition to a Mrs. Fuller who tossed them into her fishpond.

Read the entire article in the January 2009 issue