What's That Mean? - Non-Native Invasive Plant

October 27, 2017

By: Barb Holtz

Welcome back to Plant Terms with Barb! That does not have an enticing ring but this last final segment is absolutely worth your read. I dare say the most important post of What's That Mean (or Plant Terms with Barb) blog.

Cue non-native, invasive to the stage. Picture Purple Loosestrife, Queen Anne's Lace, Lesser Celandine, English Ivy, Day Lillies, Vinca. Lovely, utilitarian, readily available, fast growing. What's not to love? So many things....

Non-native, invasive plants travel accidentally or purposefully from outside the local area, escape into natural areas, and degrade habitat. These are plants that up-end the ecosystem by carpeting diversity with monoculture, out competing the scene that has evolved and adapted to local conditions for centuries.

I career retired from a local park district a couple of years ago. I have witnessed first-hand the havoc of non-native, invasive plant conquest. Interlopers spread from suburban yards via water, animals and trash only to disrupt the patchwork of seasonal blooms and seed wildlife depend on. When monoculture prevails, nature loses. Diversity is what allows nature to heal, change and sustain. Non-native, invasive plants injure those prospects.

So what? I need a quick growing groundcover and vinca does the trick. What happens in your yard does not stay in your yard. When vinca roots at the woodland edge, spring ephemerals may fail. Early pollinators return to a native patch of bloom to find nothing. The preverbal web of life has taken another hit. Plants →pollinators→seeds→food for you, me and other living beings.

I shopped at a small nursery a number of years back. There it was on the perennail display table, Purple Loosestrife. This is a plant that was illegal to sell in the mid-1980's because of its harm to natural areas. When I inquired about the availability for purchase, I was told it was the sterile variety of Lythrum salicaria. Cultivars tend to return to their native form. Sterile becomes fertile. I was beyond dismayed.

The tangible havoc of non-native, invasives is clear via ecological and land management studies. What is less clear is the ethical, if any, responsibility to native landscapes. Some say just let invasives be invasives. We can't stop the onslaught and probably shouldn't. It's just nature, the next evolution of the planet. I disagree whole-heartedly. We won't win the invasive battle but we can work to hold plants at bay. Plant natives, don't support invasive stock in the nursery industry with your dollars, be an example, educate others and be the change. Do it for the pollinators. Do it to retain a legacy. Do it to honor a place. Do it for the beauty of what is beyond ourselves. A wise creature once said...