Below are articles written by Richard Proescher:
Earth Changes (In PDF)
How John Rolfe Changed America’s Landscape
Many Americans are familiar with the name John Rolfe as the Englishmen who married Pocahontas. What is not familiar is that John Rolfe may be responsible for permanently changing the American landscape. This change went far beyond the salty marshlands of Jamestown.
Rolfe grew tobacco in Jamestown. He brought a new special strain of tobacco seed that was being grown in Trinidad and Venezuela. He did this despite the penalty of death to anyone selling these seeds to a non-Spaniard.
The Indians of Virginia smoked tobacco and introduced it to the English, but it was a different species which didn’t agree with the Europeans. Rolfe’s tobacco was “pleasant, sweet and strong.” By 1620, 10 years after the settlement, Jamestown exported 50,000 pounds of Rolfe’s strain of tobacco, and nearly 6 times that ten years later.
Because of the commercial success of Rolfe’s tobacco, the James River was often crowded with empty ships waiting to be loaded with the new tobacco. To balance the weight of the ships, sailors often dumped out the ballast, which contained mostly stones and soil. It is believed this dirt most certainly contained earthworms.
These little earthworms would eventually change the landscape of America. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the forest of New England in the upper Midwest had no earthworms. Without earthworms the leaves of the northern trees and shrubs would lie on the ground and decompose back into the soil to feed the trees from which they dropped. The appearance of earthworms, however, turned these leaf-floored forests into a more open and dry landscape. In other words, the seedlings had no protection and nowhere to root, eliminating any chance for a dense forest. An open landscape of very mature trees was created instead.
There is no proof that Rolfe brought the worms to the New World, but it is known that the northern forest were worm free until the arrival of the Europeans. The migration of the worms from coastal Virginia to the far reaches of the United States took another 400 years.