Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's the big deal about invasives anyway?

Invasive plant material has become really pretty contraversial over the past couple of years. Most of the plants that are deemed invasives are plants that have become mainstays in the landscape - Norway Maple, Burning Bushes, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese Barberry, Purple Loosestrife and so on. What makes these plants so durable in the landscape - nothing will eat them, they grow fast, and they are extremely adaptable. Well, those qualities carry over into natural areas too...nothing will eat them, so they grow with no checks and balances. They grow fast....they are the first to leaf out and the last to drop their leaves and native plants can't compete for space, light, nutrients, and water. They are extremely adaptable...they grow anywhere, under any conditions. You can sort of see where there's a problem starting to form. The icing on the cake that really isn't a landscape attribute is these plants produce a lot of seeds and these seed are capable of widespread dispersal. That is bad, really bad. Why this bad is that these plants are out competing our native plants which provide food for our native wildlife. No food means no wildlife and you can see the domino effect that has. Not to mention, if the naturalized areas begin to fill up with plants that deer can't eat, they are going to start looking for things they can...in your front yard.

When people tell me they like the main offenders of being invasive and they would like to see Burning Bush or whatever in their landscape. They are gobsmacked when I tell them they are invasive and I would rather not plant them. Usually, they will say- "well, I've grown it for years and I never had a problem with it taking over my yard." Well, they are thinking of plants I like to call "garden thugs". Garden thugs are plant bullies and will try to overrun their immediate neighbors in their beds. True invasives cause issues mostly in areas we don't tend to.

Over this fall, I have found myself in the woods a bit with Eric and his friend Leo scoping out prime places for deer hunting or with Lars. My Lars missions are usually geocaching and they take us in some pretty secluded places. I have been taking pictures of where things are growing where they shouldn't be.

Japanese Honeysuckle growing in a DEM area in Smithfield. Um yeah...a million dollars says that no one planted that there.

Here I am in Goddard Park in East Greenwich walking the trails and I found these different burning bushes along a short part of the path. Two of them were taller than I am...deer won't touch burning bush and that's why they are so tall out there.

Once again in Goddard, now it's barberry which is a plant that deer won't touch with a 10' pole. Barberry is a huge problem in Maine that they are doing tons of research on finding herbicides to wipe out the barberry in the woods. They are doing this because the deer populations are really suffering up there because of the lack of food source from the competition of barberry in the woods.

So, hopefully these photos will show gardeners who think Burning Bush doesn't really cause a problem just because they don't have them popping up all over their yards. It's not the yards that the problem lies, it's the places Mother Nature gardens instead.

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