Invasive Species- What/Why/Where are they?

by Mindy on August 7, 2011

in Conservation, Invasive Species, Native Species, Uncategorized

As a lover of plants and animals it is horrible to hear that an invasive species is taking over an area. I just read a post on Facebook from the Wildlife Society about the siting of a snakehead fish spotted in the Potomac River in Maryland. This is bad news. All too often we humans are careless about what we do. So what is an invasive species?

An invasive species is defined as one that is “1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Invasive species have negative impacts on biological diversity, productivity, environmental integrity, and wildlife and human health, and are especially dangerous near vulnerable or at-risk species.

To read more about the disastrous effects of introducing non-native/invasive species into your area read this compelling book by Kim Todd, Tinkering with Eden- A Natural History of Exotics in America. You will be shocked at the stories of what is happening to the planet, some in your own back yard.

 

I always hate it when there is bad news so I wanted to end this blog post with some hopeful/helpful tips:

 

Gardeners:

That really cool plant at the nursery that you just have to have……. research it. Start with asking the nurseryman what it is, where it comes from and how big will it get. This is helpful, but a lot of times they don't really know the potential disaster that can occur. Take the name of the plant, go to the internet, google it and find out what others have to say. There are websites devoted to listing invasive species. I fell in love with a tree called the Princess Tree. It has beautiful purple flowers in huge clusters in the spring. After researching it, I found out it is very invasive as it can spread thousands of seeds and choke out native seedlings. It was from China. I found a native tree, the Northern Catalpa that has the same clusters of flowers, only in white, rather than purple. I decided to plant it instead. I found one growing in a stream in a parking lot by a gas station. I dug it up and it is now flourishing in my old home in New Jersey. There are always alternatives to that plant you just have to have. Research it and know what you are planting. You will save yourself lots of hours of weeding to eradicate something that is ruining your garden it you research before you leap!

     


Wildlife Lovers:

Even if you are not an avid gardener you can put some native plants in your yard to attract birds and other wildlife. The National Wildlife Association has a Backyard Habitat program with simple steps to get certified. This is a fun thing to do with children as it teaches them conservation and ecology.  DO NOT BUY exotic pets like iguanas, snakes, birds etc… These animals may not be "invasive"…….. yet…… but all too often people buy something for their children as a household pet and it gets out of control in the house. The homeowner doesn't know what to do, so they let it loose. Pythons are invading the everglades and iguanas are like squirrels in the backyards of places like Miami. Instead, watch nature films and documentaries about these super cool critters. Go to zoos and rescue sanctuaries where you can see them up close and personal.

 

What do you do in your own backyard to promote Native plants? I would love to hear from you.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Zarina August 8, 2011 at 11:14 am

In our backyard, we usually take native plants. Recently, we went to a flower show and we  were fortunate to meet up with a rose specialist who has been generous in providing information for the care and maintenance of the plants.
The only non-native plant that we have now which is kept away from the others (at the outdoor sink to be precise) is the marjoram.

Jackie Jacobson August 9, 2011 at 12:29 am

Very good article. I love the tips. Great. Keep them coming. We actually spent today at the nursery looking for native plants for the desert.
Not at this time of year…no one wants to be outdoors at the nurseries. It was only 107.

Mindy August 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Zarina~ I have lots of non-native plants in my garden. The key is to make sure that they are not invasive. Roses are beautiful and I have a rose garden i made for my mother. There is a wild rose- Rosa Regosa that is very invasive in the wild and takes over everything, It is a bramble rose and spreads. A long as it is under control in the garden it should be okay. One of the other things you need to make sure of is… Do the seeds get wind born or dispersed by insects and birds? Hey can  multiple in your neighbors back yard. You can not see it in yours but it could spread all over the neighborhood.

Jackie~ Bring the cactus in the garage, put your feet up and have an ice tea!

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