Avoid Invasive Species

Ricky removing invasive English Ivy
Invasive English Ivy removal

Weeds Gone Wild!

Plants and the many environmental and human health benefits they provide are a key element of a sustainable landscape. However, it is important to note that some plants can also cause significant economic and environmental damage.

An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.  Studies have shown that at least half of the invasive plants in the U.S.—whether purple loosestrife, jasmine, and glossy privet or pampas grass—were brought here for horticultural use.  Invasive plants are often able to displace native vegetation when the natural conditions or checks and balances that exist in their native environment are not a part of the new ecosystem.  Such plants are more likely to invade natural ecosystems that have been disturbed or are degraded.

Most invasive plants are habitat generalists and are able to survive in a wide range of conditions.  Plants naturally interact with the surrounding environment and over time can change the characteristics of an ecosystem.  In many areas, invasive species have altered important natural processes like hydrology, fire, and nutrient flow—to the detriment of native plants and animal communities.

Many invasive plants are still being sold for garden use despite their documented ability to degrade natural areas.  No system is yet in place to effectively screen them for potential invasiveness, yet new plants from around the world are constantly being introduced.

A foolproof system for predicting invasiveness so far has proved elusive, but a few traits should raise red flags. For example, non-native species bearing fleshy fruits that can be dispersed by birds are at the top of the suspect list. You can preserve biodiversity by not planting plant such species.  It’s also good to avoid planting any species that has escaped into vacant lots or roadsides in the area, even if they are not on an official invasive species list.

The most prudent prevention measure is to select regionally native plants when possible. If you grow plants native to your region, you help keep invasive species from spreading, preserve the region’s natural character, and protect the complex interrelationships between native plants and the insects, birds, and myriad other creatures with which they have co-evolved.

Resources on invasive species in your region include:  www.naeppc.org/, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, Center for Plant Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and local state forestry association.

Source:  Landscape For Life

Additional Information

▪About invasive plants. “Contrary to the title, the focus of Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas is native biodiversity. Invasive species and habitat destruction, intensified by global climate change, are running neck-to-neck as the leading causes of environmental despoliation and loss of biological diversity worldwide.” Download—Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas Printable PDF (8.25 Mb).

▪For extensive invasive plant information, visit the Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas website.

▪”The Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States is a collaborative project between the National Park Service, the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The purpose of the Atlas is to assist users with identification, early detection, prevention, and management of invasive plants. The focus is on non-native invasive plant species impacting natural areas, excluding agricultural and other heavily developed and managed lands. Four main components are species information, images, distribution maps, and early detection reporting procedures. The Invasive Plant Atlas is one step in the effort to combat invasive species, preserve our natural landscapes and the native plants, animals, and other creatures that inhabit them.” www.invasiveplantatlas.org