October 2013 Newsletter (vol.22)   >>   When Plants Become Invasive



Overgrown Stairs

How and why are some plants considered invasive, but others are not? Invasive plants are those that thrive in an unnatural environment and location to which they may be accustom. These plants show characteristics including being extremely adaptable, vigorous and showing a high reproductive rate. A few reasons why these plants are able to thrive is because insects, disease, climate, and animals which would normally keep the growth in check are now absent from the new location.

Due to lack of knowledge or awareness, some invasive plants are admired or ignored. By ignoring their weedy nature, some gardeners allow the plants to continue to take over their gardens. Often times, property owners will neglect, or fail to recognize the issue and the invasive plants will grow into an unmanageable problem and continue to spread. These issues can start purely by accident from the seeds traveling in shipments or products, or they can develop from horticultural benefits, like being unusual and highly sought out. Drought tolerant, hardy, and fast growing plants are in high demand; unfortunately their resilience and adaptable nature make them the enemy if not controlled.

As plant life varies from region to region so does the scale in which they are invasive. A few of the most common plants which have become invasive that you may have heard of are: Purple Loostrife, Lythrum salicaria, Tartarian honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, Russian olive, Elaeagnus angusifolia and Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila. Others that quickly get out of hand and should be removed as soon as sighted include: Tree-of-heaven, Ailanthus altissima, multiflora rose, Rosa multiflora, garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata and fig buttercup, Ranunculus ficaria. Although these plants are often not planted intentionally in the garden, they show up in allies, cracks in concrete, abandon properties, gutters, and sidewalks. It is important to remove these plants before they become large and hard to remove, and more importantly, before they set seed.



Invasive plants are disruptive to many environments and eco-systems. They block out important sunlight, threaten wetlands, sand dunes and fire prone areas. The invaders choke out native plant material, put pressure on the wildlife, area inhabitants and ultimately reduce biodiversity. Because they can survive in most soil types and weather conditions it is hard to avoid these invasive plants from taking over the landscape. It is important to try to be as proactive as possible by planting beneficial plants such as lowbush blueberry, alum root, heuchera, buddleia, or loriope, and then be dedicated enough to maintain the garden to avoid running in to a problem.

It is always a good idea to learn how to identify these invasive plants so you can treat the area. If your property is surrounded by natural areas, complete a good clean out to avoid the spread of seed by wind or water. Always use the proper tools to avoid injury and get the job finished. Items may include a good pair of gloves, to keep your hands safe, hedge sheers, for leafy plants and loppers for the larger and woody shrubs. If the area is overgrown, or just simply a large project you may want to consider a Bobcat mower and hand saw to take the brush and foliage to the ground and have a clean start. For residential or abandoned areas wack-ees, leg protective gear, will come in handy, and for most jobs a systemic herbicide like Brushmaster or Razor Burn should do the trick.

Millions of dollars are spent each year to battle invasive plants. It is important to preserve our natural bio-systems and wildlife as well as the ground water supplies. Every little bit helps, just by identifying and removing invasive plants early on. Planting native plant material, and clearing out large un-inhabited or abandoned areas, can make a great difference. There are plenty of sources and organizations to get more information on help to keep these unwelcome plants from rapidly reproducing and taking over.