The Issue of Invasive Plants
Invasive plants are plants that:
- Are not native to the ecosystem in question
- Spread aggressively
- Cause harm in some way to that ecosystem.
An exotic plant or other species is one that is found outside of its normal range. An invasive species is a species that is quickly becoming very abundant. Often this spread is harmful to native species. Most invasive species of concern are also exotic, but occasionally, conditions change such that a native species suddenly proliferates.
In our project, all of our invasive plants are exotics that have either been accidentally or intentionally introduced by people. For example, Japanese barberry (BETH) is a very popular ornamental plant. Garlic mustard (ALPE) is an herb that can be used in cooking.
Invasive plants spread in different ways: birds may eat the fruit and drop the seeds elsewhere, or the wind can carry small seeds. We have many exotic plants in our forests and other natural areas. Can we fix the damage that has been done? How can we prevent future problem species from spreading? These are also interesting issues.
Why we should be concerned about invasive plants:
Perhaps you care about the beauty of the place where you live. Each place is unique and in that place there are plants and combinations of plants you might not see elsewhere. More and more, wherever you go, you will see the same plants again and again. Native plants are being displaced.
Perhaps you care about wildlife. Some plants make poor habitat or food sources for wildlife. Invasive plants can come to dominate a place. If animals needed those native plants, they, too, can suffer.
Perhaps nature is your hobby. Invasive plants can overtake and make activities like boating nearly impossible. Birds or fish or butterflies or whatever it is you seek, may be no longer be found.
Perhaps you care about the costs to you: Invasive plants harm agricultural lands, parks, waterways, lawns. Many billions (yes, billions) of dollars are spent in the United States to control problem species. We all pay these costs, one way or another.
But, it's not too late to do something.