Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Bush Honeysuckle On Trial

The Old Courthouse, in downtown St. Louis, is the site of landmark cases:

In 1846, Dred Scott, a human being enslaved, sued for his freedom.

In 1872, Virginia Minor, a woman and a Citizen of the United States, sued for her right to vote.

In 2018, Dale Dufer, a lifelong St. Louis man, is suing Bush Honeysuckle – a plant brought here by people, which became extremely invasive – for damages to the Biodiversity of our native plants.

Some would call each a Lost Cause, but history’s verdict can trump, over time.
And – WHAT? Man Sues Plant?

Today, the Old Courthouse is the site of educational proceedings. On Wednesday, April 4 at 1 p.m., the public is invited to a most unusual one: The Trial of Bush Honeysuckle.

“Bush Honeysuckle is a plant that’s taking over our woods, roadsides, parks and streams,” says Dufer, an artist and woodworker. “This species of honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii, is not native to this region. We brought it here from Asia, for the kinds of reasons many plants have been moved around the planet: because we thought it would be useful here, but especially because it’s pretty.

“People here love their Bush Honeysuckle. It creates an amazing privacy hedge. But it also shades out and crowds out our native bushes and flowering plants. It takes over areas our native birds and insects need to thrive. It outcompetes young trees that should regenerate forests. It’s turning our region into a Honeysuckle Desert. And it’s close to escaping into the Ozarks. Pretty, yes – but totally destructive. And we can do something about it!”

Dufer has been doing something. Since 2014, his project Think About Tables has used the natural structure – and unlimited supply – of Bush Honeysuckle in creative workshops, teaching people how to build unique stick tables. “These tables are conversation-starters,” he says, “they provide a positive opening for dialogue about this problem.”

Now Dufer is bringing the issue to public attention in another way: as Plaintiff in the Trial of Bush Honeysuckle.

Distinguished jurists are participating! The Honorable Anna C. Forder, St. Louis first woman to adjudicate the St. Louis Circuit Court, is serving as Judge. Katy Henry, Executive Director of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, will Prosecute the case. And Ted Heisel, an environmental lawyer who is former Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, is willing to lead the Defense.

The public is invited to this free educational event. A Jury will be selected from attendees. One of the Twelve Good and True could be you!

After the proceedings on April 4, a “Trial of Bush Honeysuckle” script will be developed for the National Park Service education staff, adding to mock trial resources they use with school classes and adult groups.

What Justice is possible in this suit? In a most auspicious setting, points of responsibility will be heard, about both Person and Plant.

Jean Ponzi brings environmental questions to light in her KDHX Earthworms weekly podcasts. 2018 marks 30 years of the show’s community service, volunteering from St. Louis Independent Media. Catch it at podcasts.kdhx.org.