From the Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog comes this report about the potential benefits of using vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) for erosion control in New Orleans. Problem is...and considering where you are reading this, you probably know where this is going...yes: vetiver grass, native to Asia, is considered an invasive species in several parts of the world. A sterile cultivar has been developed for landscaping purposes but it is unclear whether that too is invasive. A Pacific Islands study labeled vetiver grass as a low risk invader. The Vetiver Network disputes the PIER risk assessment but they seem biased.
On the pro side, there is the reputed ability of the grass to repel Formosan termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and prevent flooding. Also, supporters point to the fact that the grass has been grown in New Orleans for over 200 years and has not yet caused a problem. The Army Corps is apparently still thinking about it, and has placed vetiver grass on a short list of species being considered for restoration plantings near the levees.
I think continued disturbance is a good way to prod a species into evolving new characters, including ones we might not want, such as an ability to better spread into natural areas. That's the last thing New Orleans needs, with such a massive natural disturbance as a hurricane having left it so ecologically vulnerable. What do you think?