While this shows us what plants were there back in the day, it leaves a false impression of what pre-contact landscapes were like.
Columbus, Drake and the rest did more than take make maps, trade trinkets, and take captives. They also introduced their European microbes to a system where they had no natural enemies, introducing diseases that devastated the indigenous populations.
As Kat Anderson’s Before the Wildneress explains, when John Smith or Junipero Serra arrived, they found a landscape that had been left to grow wild for over a century after the native population collapsed. They saw an empty wilderness for the taking, not an abandoned garden.