Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Leslie Irvine

Second Advisor

Jill Harrison

Third Advisor

Joyce Nielsen

Abstract

Most wildland experts agree that indigenous species in the Americas have increased rates of extinction due to the influx of Europe plants. While human development is the main threat to wildland species, today all states have noxious weed boards and lists of troublesome non-native plants. One undesirable newcomer is Myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites), an escaped ornamental garden perennial with toxic properties now increasing on Western wild and agricultural land. In Colorado, the plant is “illegal” and mandated for eradication.

The discourse about exotic, or non-native, plants connects to three areas of sociological interest. Targeting non-native plants for removal requires money, labor and public attention. Second, scholarship has analyzed similarities between discourse about immigrant plants and people. Third, a difference between expert and lay knowledge about ecosystem health is exposed. By observing Myrtle spurge eradication efforts, this thesis explores the way knowledge of plants’ “belongingness” or alien status is conveyed, and embraced or ignored by gardeners, homeowners and volunteers recruited to remove it, and the way experts and lay people view the landscape and ecosystem health.

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