Learning from Past Mistakes: An Invasive Plant Story
People have intentionally brought plants from other parts of the world to North America since colonial times. Some plants, such as apples, are now ingrained in our culture and greatly valued by our communities. However, there are other non-native species that are invasive. They actively disrupt our natural ecosystems, cause harm to our economy or threaten our health. To understand why these plants are harmful and difficult to manage, we turn to some of their common characteristics. Invasives are commonly generalists, meaning that they can tolerate a wide range of conditions, from soil pH to moisture and light levels. Invasive plants produce large quantities of seeds and/or aggressively spread from their vegetative tissues. These plants lack native enemies from back home, and can therefore grow here without a controlling mechanism. All of these characteristics lead to unchecked growth that has the ability to spread and take over native ecosystems. These plants also have been aided by humans. Many were brought over for their ornamental value and planted in gardens and cities. Glossy buckthorn and multiflora rose, which are currently on the Vermont’s noxious weed list, were encouraged for planting because of their predicted wildlife benefits. From the 1930s until the 60s, the US Soil Conservation Service promoted multiflora rose to be used as living fences and to control erosion. We are now more cautious about the introduction of foreign plants and animals, and understand the consequences of past invasive plant introductions. We have the ability to take action to halt the spread of invasive plants into uninvaded areas. One way to do this is to replace any invasive plants in your yard with natives that support native pollinator species and healthy ecosystems. Plants like barberry, burning bush, honeysuckle and multiflora rose are all commonly found planted as ornamental hedges or shrubs. Just because they are in the yard, however, does not mean that they cannot spread and harm our natural spaces and conserved areas. The fruits of these plants are eaten and transported by birds. This can lead to the formation of new plants in our forests and cherished green spaces. This planting season make the change! Email the Batten Kill Watershed CISMA’s habitat steward at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802-442-2275 for more information on what you can do about invasive plants.