Invasive Plants Show Their ‘True Colors’ in the Fall
It’s leaf-peeping season in Vermont, but if you see any plants that are still green, be aware; they could be invasive. Invasive plants are non-native to the area where they are found and can harm the environment, the economy and our health. They have the ability to grow leaves before native plants do, and they keep them longer. By increasing the amount of time they can photosynthesize, they increase their chances of growing larger, eventually out-competing native plants. For example, the native sugar maple and the invasive Norway maple live in the same habitat and look similar, making it difficult to determine the difference, but in the fall, it’s easy to tell which is which; the leaves of the sugar maples turn orange, red or yellow and begin falling in early autumn. Norway maples, on the other hand, turn a light yellow or remain a light green and do not fall until later. They also tend to develop characteristic black splotches on their leaves and produce a milky sap. Another invasive that is easy to spot in autumn is buckthorn, which will retain its dark-green, glossy leaves long after other trees are completely bare. Its seeds are spread by birds and it can to change the composition of the soil, affecting the ability of native plants to grow nearby. Of course, this is not always true. Some invasive plants are beautiful in the fall. Burning bush, known for its bright red color in the fall, was brought to this area specifically for its autumn foliage. However, as a general rule of thumb, if you see a plant this time of year that is still green, it might be worth a second look.
If you do happen to notice any abnormally green invasives this time of year, visit vtinvasives.org to help identify it and fill out a report by clicking the ‘Report It!’ button on the bottom of the page. If you need help with this process or have invasive plant questions, send an email to [email protected] Contributed by Elana Feldman, Habitat Steward/Coordinator CISMA-BKW.