February 22, 2015 marks the start of National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
Utilizing native plants in our landscapes is important because they evolved in a particular region and provide habitat and food for our local fauna. Native plants are durable and have the ability to withstand temperature and rainfall fluctuations. Their expansive root systems help reduce stormwater run-off and help reduce soil compaction.
Invasive plants are introduced to a region and can displace native plants with their ability to aggressively reproduce and grow with little to no predation. Invasive plants provide minimal benefits for wildlife, including the birds, bees and butterflies. It is important to note that not all non-native plants are invasive and that just being not native to an area doesn't make a plant invasive. For example, most ornamental plants are not native to an area but have been used in landscaping for decades with minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem. With that said, there are non-native plants that have become invasive to spread from the mulch beds to our floodplains, fields, and forests thus displacing native plants, reducing wildlife habitat, and costing us billions in dollars to try and control. Nobody introduces a non-native plant knowing that it will become invasive and deteriorate our ecosystem, it just kind of happens when the conditions are favorable.
So the main question becomes, why use non-native plants and risk it? We can not undo what has happened in the past but we should educate ourselves on what is out there and learn how we can do our part. There are several different ways to control invasive plants and almost all of them end with planting native plants. Please check out the following website to learn what you can do to be a part of the solution!