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Invasive Plants in Naturalized Areas

IMAG0079Invasive plant species are a problem that can have a serious impact on our local ecosystems.  The Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group [MIPAG] defines invasive plants as “non-native species that have spread into native or minimally managed plant systems in Massachusetts, causing economic or environmental harm by developing self-sustaining populations and becoming dominant and/or disruptive to those systems.”    According to the New England Wild Flower Society, “seventy-nine species [of invasive plants] cost the U.S. economy more than $97 billion annually in lost crops, failed recovery efforts for endangered species, and control efforts. Invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42% of U.S. endangered and threatened species; for 18% of U.S. endangered or threatened species, invasives are the main cause of decline.”

Invasive plants decrease biodiversity and displace native species that wildlife depend upon for food and cover.  For example, bush honeysuckle (Lonicera s.pp.) creates dense stands that exclude native plant species.  The fruits, produced from mid-summer through early fall, are very attractive to birds.  While the fruits are rich in carbohydrates, they lack the fat and nutrient content to sustain migrating birds on their long journeys south; they are essentially junk food for birds.  Because the dense stands of honeysuckle exclude the nutritious native plants, they become the dominant fodder for migrating birds at a time when they need to foraging on nutritious food for their trip south the most.

In most cases, it is not practical to completely eliminate invasive plants from your community, but you can create pockets of invasive free areas on your own property.  First, identify invasives on your property.  Spring and fall are good times to look for invasives; most of the understory invasive shrubs leaf out first in the spring and drop their leaves last.

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The first flush of green in this North Oxford, MA woodlot is from Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). In addition to all the other negative aspects of invasive plants, Barberry is implicated in the spread of Lyme Disease; The dense thickets formed by these thorny plants protect white-footed deer mice, the main host for the disease-vectoring black legged or deer tick, from predators.

Of course there are many other invasive plant species you may want to familiarize yourself with and explore the various options for controlling them, including mechanical methods such as hand pulling them or chemical controls.  Here are just a few of the many websites you can visit to learn more about invasive plants and how to control them:

Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory   Group  http://www.massnrc.org/MIPAG/index.htm#contacts

Audubon Connecticut  http://ct.audubon.org/remove-invasive-plants

New England Wild Flower Society  http://www.newfs.org/about

RI Invasive Species Council  http://rinhs.org/invasive-species-portal/riisc/

The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England’s (IPANE)  http://www.eddmaps.org/ipane/index.html

Pennsylvania DCNR     http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/plants/invasiveplants/index.htm