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What is an invasive species? Exotic plants have been brought to the California floristic province for hundreds of years. Some of them adorn yards and properties as botanical reminders of other places; fragments of our global heritage and symbols of interconnectedness.

Photograph of a dead eucalyptus tree, surrounded by invasive grasses, native scrub habitat, and coastal fog, by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Dead E. globulus, surrounded by invasive grasses, native scrub habitat, and coastal fog

Right relationship

When an exotic becomes invasive, it becomes a being not in right relationship with the land around it. An invasion is "an unwelcome intrusion." This means that rather than being a respectful guest, the invader is not in right relationship with the host; some aspect of respect or trust or symbiosis has been violated. Invasion can also be equated with aggression or domination.

Paperbark and blue gum eucalyptus greeting cards by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Invasive species

Invasive human cultures came to the Pacific coast from Europe, via Spain, Russia, and America. This means that the European cultures which came here did not respect the land; they were not in right relationship with the people and the land who were originally here. Instead, they sought to alter it to a different order, to force it to obey a system that is not native and does not conform to the pre-existing relationships which were formed over millennia by the land itself.

A photograph of Chorro Valley and Hollister Peak, showing ecological damage by cattle grazing, by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
A damaged landscape, harmed by agricultural invasion, still incredibly majestic despite its wounds

The effects of invasive plant species are many, but primarily they cause ecological damage by disrupting the long-established systems within habitat spaces. They interfere with pre-existing relationships by altering the landscape, making it difficult for food webs and other life systems to function correctly. They cause disturbance in the system, pushing the land out of balance so that it must evolve to seek a new homeostasis.

Painting of blue gum eucalyptus by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Tasmanian blue gum, a beautiful tree native to Australia and invasive to California

The magician's brush

The work which undoes invasion is rehabilitation. To a certain degree, the effects of invasion are irrevocable. But there is also a great deal of healing work which can be done to bring a culture – whether of plants or of humans – back into right relationship with the native landscape, the original peoples of a place.

Detail of a painting of a coast live oak tree by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Oak proceeds from acorn proceeds from oak

Art is the beginning of culture. From the dawn of time, religious rites of right relationship with the world were inscribed on rock faces, deep inside caves, at sacred mountains, along sacred waterways. Culture is a set of meanings, values, ideals, and concepts which are passed along through media.

Painting of a coast live oak covered in lace lichen by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Quercus agrifolia, the coast live oak – our bioregion's native tree, in symbiosis with Ramalina menziesii

If wielded by the correct hand, the paintbrush becomes a tool of medicine, a surgeon's implement for cultural healing.


It is my hope that our generation's contributions to the arts and the culture of global society can be a constructive force of growth, weaving a new tapestry of interconnectedness. The exotic cultures which join together here at the Pacific coast may form a shared vision of beauty, respect, and right relationship, fearlessly examining and healing the wounds of invasion, moving forward into a new day.

Photograph of sunlight shining through the leaves of a coast live oak tree, by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Leaves of Quercus agrifolia, just before the star falls below the horizon

First salutations to the stars.

Thanks to all relatives and ancestors.

May all beings be happy and free.

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