We’ve just returned from a frolic around Malta, Sicily and Rome, catching up with some dear friends, learning more about the amazing history of the Mediterranean, and eating our body weight in pizza/pasta/chocolate-filled croissants.
There were so many things to do and see and smell, but one particular feature kept catching my eye…
The wattles! You can blame my botanist father if you like, but I couldn’t help but notice acacias—and eucalypts—everywhere we went. They are in Tortosa too and I’ve been aware of them since we arrived. Lazily I just assumed that their presence meant another Australian had lived here at some stage.
No more. Once that I learnt that these trees grow wild across at least three countries in southern Europe, my interest was officially piqued!
But what a depressing interest-quenching mission it has turned out to be. A quick something-search has led me to discover that several wattle and gum tree varieties are considered environmental pests across much of Europe and Africa.
The plants were brought over from Australia in the late 1700s because they were exotic, pretty and interesting. But now our floral emblems have invaded roadsides, coastal bushland and nature reserves across Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, crowding out native species and destroying local biodiversity.
Not everyone is against the naturalised Aussies. Much like Grafton in New South Wales celebrates the jacaranda, that great purple South African migrant, the French southern Riveria honours the wattle (or mimosa) bloom every year with a week-long festival.
I HAD been enjoying the little green and gold slices of home whenever I saw them. In fact I have some wattle blossoms in a bottle on the dining table right now. But it turns out they are the European equivalent of rabbits in Australia: slowly and surely wrecking up the place. I no longer want a Spanish home among the gum trees.