Aliens in the Backyard: Plant and Animal Imports into America

John Leland, Author . Univ. of South Carolina $29.95 (235p) ISBN 978-1-57003-582-1

Leland writes, "[T]he wilderness is gone and the word native nearly meaningless," and he has accumulated anecdotes on innumerable foreign plants and animals to make the point. Despite the sweeping statement, this is not an especially provocative book. It's a loosely organized compendium of facts on—or merely tangentially related to—flora and fauna that have traveled to, or within, the U.S. Even the coyote figures here, having expanded far beyond its pre-Columbian territory in Mexico and the Great Plains.Quick dips into this are entertaining: Leland is a lively writer and has amassed a mountain of research, pulling in everything from the Thugs of India (in a discussion of jimsonweed) to Archy, Don Marquis's poetic cockroach. Reading more than a few pages at a time, however, is overwhelming: the author offers no overarching principle or line of argument. Leland (Poacher's Creek ), a professor of English at Virginia Military Institute, mentions scientific controversies on species' taxonomy or origin, but never delves into the science of invasions. The chapters on psychoactive plants and the environmental impact of Native Americans are particularly interesting, but this won't satisfy readers seeking understanding rather than information overload. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/23/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Paperback - 235 pages - 978-1-57003-958-4
Open Ebook - 248 pages - 978-1-61117-213-3
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