Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Plague on the Prickly Pear

The ecologists, when not encouraging the demolition of foreign-owned homes or over-sized hotels, are concerned with fighting aliens. Not in this case the extranjeros, but rather the animal and plant life that doesn't (didn't) belong. They would like to be, of course, like Rousseau's Natural Man; and it sounds like a splendid plan, if only there was anything much left to dance about in after the exotics were weeded out.
As for the local people, let them eat sand.
In the natural park that stretches across most of southwestern Almería, it seems that the pita and the agave have got to go. The pita is the Century Plant, a spiky looking number, which after a great deal of procrastination suddenly shoots out an enormous stem with yellow flowers on the top of it, and then the whole she-bang keels over dead. The stalk was used in bygone times to make roof-beams (I had a few in an old house in Bédar. They rot after a while). The agave, sisal, was used for making raffia, rope, cloth and paper at one point. If only they had thought of Tequila. The plants were brought back from Mexico by the conquistadors (the ones who didn't find gold and therefore had plenty of space in their bags), and planted in the Cabo de Gata, thus giving the area something interesting to look at and, at the same time, upsetting their ecologically-minded descendents working out of the Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio (that's right, the same department that has such a lively interest in foreign-owned homes in the interior of the province).
The ecologistas of today are, and it's documented, the Holy Inquisition of the sixteenth century.
I once wrote a learnéd article for a Spanish magazine about the Nijar/Cabo de Gata natural park and suggested it needing salting with a few critters such as the odd wallaby to move things along. At least the tourists would have something to photograph. The suggestion went down like a lead brick.
However, while the ecologists are busy getting excited from their fifth floor apartments in downtown Almería about how best to impoverish both the countryside and those unfortunate enough to live in it, they appear to have dropped the ball when it comes to a long line of insect infections we have suffered (beyond and above the German Cockroach, which prefers the cities anyway). We had the horrid palm tree beetle (palm trees come from Egypt, and tourists like them, so the ecologists looked the other way and instead made a great fuss of trying to catch racoons which had been left 'in the wild' by a few owners). We have the Eucalyptus fly which can only, apparently, be killed by the Eucalyptus spider, and we aren't allowed to import any: spiders that is. The old story about the old lady who swallowed a fly must be more popular here than I had thought. Besides which, even our IU green-minded mayor of a few years ago, Carlos Cervantes, had no compunction in uprooting an entire Eucalyptus grove on Mojácar Beach - the damn things come from Oz. Do you remember Carlos, the noisy and opinionated chap with the big black beard? He was the one who was against a ring-road for Mojácar because it would crush a rare plant called the limonium, a kind of lily.
So now, we have another blight, this time one that attacks the Prickly Pear, which is about as ubiquitous in our desert landscape as it can get. It is spreading slowly west, from Murcia. Here's a picture I took of some affected by cochinilla. It's on our neighbour's land.
Will the local authorities be given some squirty stuff by the Conserjería to get rid of this plague, I wonder? In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter. The Chumbo comes from Mexico as well...

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