Green and Simple: National Invasive Species Awareness Week
Some local big-box garden centers are stocked to the brim with invasive plants. Many of our gardens are over flowing with them. So lush and beautiful, could they really be a problem? You bet they can!
Is your so garden carefullly manicured with the most beautiful (invasive) plants that, once in full bloom, it will be ready for a magazine cover? Is your yard so much of a hodge podge that you're not really sure what's growing out there? Are your trees and shrubs so overrun with English ivy or other invaders that you can hardly see the trunk? Fear not, help is out there! It is, after all, National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
Prior to becoming a master naturalist, I hardly knew a thing about invasive species. I had learned somewhere along the way that English ivy and bamboo were not good because they grow and spread rapidly, but I did not really understand why, if one liked the look and didn't mind the volume, this was an issue. Now, as I drive along the George Washington Parkway and through neighborhoods, or hike through parks and woodlands, I cringe when I see trees and habitats being over taken by English ivy and other invasive plants.
The concern is not just limited to plants. The National Wildlife Federation describes invasive species as, “any kind of living organism—an amphibian, plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.” (Recall the alarm a few years back, when the snake-head fish first appeared in local waters.)
So, what’s the big fuss about?
Invasive species can cause harm to ecosystems, economies and to human health. Among other things, invasives can:
- Reproduce quickly and spread aggressively.
- Compete with native species for food and other resources.
- Impede native species from reproducing or by killing their young.
- Introduce disease and predators that native species are not equipped to fight off.
- Disturb the natural balance of ecosystems.
The good news is that you can make a difference, and you don’t even have to become a master naturalist to do so! In fact, there is quite a bit you can do starting in your own back yard and extending into your community.
The National Invasive Species Awareness Week website highlights a number of activities that have been underway this week to bring this issue to the forefront. In addition, they have created a list of 10 Ways to Observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week, which includes information about ways to learn more about invasives and get involved.
So, what can you do now?
- Take a moment to read the guide and share the information with those in your community.
- Learn the common culprits in your area and avoid them/eradicate them from your property. Some in our area include: bittersweet, sweet autumn clematis, Japanese honeysuckle, fountain grass, periwinkle, and exotic bamboo.
- Buy native plants! Unable find them at your usual garden center? Ask them to carry native plants and then take your dollars to a retailer who does.
- Participate in an invasive plant pull in your area.
- Don’t take them with you when you go. Whether out hiking, boating, camping, or just walking the dog, be aware that plant parts and seeds can cling to clothing, get caught in the cuffs of your pants, stick to pet fur and get embedded in shoe treds and tires. If you are in an area where known culprits exit, do a clean sweep before you leave it.
As I peered out a bedroom window a couple of days ago, I noticed the English ivy that had crept into our yard from a neighbor's yard many years ago is spreading. I also looked to the bare plant stocks in our planter beds and wondered if the identifying tags were still in the soil. When we bought plants last summer, I didn't know to ask about native species. This spring, we may be doing lots of digging up in order to turn over a new, native leaf.