These smother native plants change food webs, displace wildlife BEWARE OF INVASIVES
By Sheila Cubick
OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer
Do we plan to be the typhoid Mary of the plant community?
No. But it can happen innocently. Slowly. Unexpectedly. Whether you plan or are spontaneous about your spring garden, beware of introducing invasive plants into your garden.
Gardeners all have difficult issues to overcome. Mine is shade. I live in a spot with little sun. Years ago, a friend offered me a start of a plant that grew very well in shade. She found it growing along the roadside, dug some up and planted it at her house and it grew well.
At my house it also grew well. Too well. It started to take over my north-facing flower-bed so I pulled some and tossed it in the woods to dry and die. But it didn’t. It flourished and now has covered the floor of the woods, choking out native flowers and grasses. While it is nonnative and can act invasively, this plant is not on the Ohio invasive plant list. This mystery plant is Lamiastrum galeobdolon, Yellow Archangel (http://go.osu.edu/yellowarchangel).
Another time, I was the one to share a hard-to-control invasive. My sister admired the lovely flowering honeysuckle bushes growing wild in my woods. I happily dug up an Amur and a Tartarian honeysuckle bush for her to take home to western Ohio. Years later, I learned in my Ohio certified volunteer naturalist and master gardener volunteer training classes that these honeysuckles were non-native invasives.
An invasive species is defined as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” The organism can be a plant, insect, mammal, bird, etc. that did not develop in the ecosystem it now inhabits. Some are intentionally brought in, such as kudzu, which was used for a forage crop, a landscape plant and erosion control. It has now been found in Ohio, covering forests and smothering native plants.
Why should we be concerned about these plants? Rapid growth, high reproductive rates, lack of natural controls and an ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions have helped some nonnatives outcompete and displace native species. Invasive species reduce biological diversity, change food webs and displace wildlife. At least 42 percent of the federally endangered and threatened species in the United States are at risk because of invasive species, according to the Ohio Invasive Plant Council. So if you see a large patch of a plant or bush growing in one area with few other plants visible, it is most likely invasive.
Before going to the nursery or planting your freebies from friends, check the list of invasive plants in Ohio. Make sure that gorgeous, hardy plant isn’t too hardy. As of January, it is illegal to sell, share, propagate, or distribute these plants. If you find one of these plants being sold at a nursery, share this information.
To learn more about the most invasive plants, go to http://go.osu.edu/fightinvasives.
To see more about the Ohio Invasives Plants Council, go to https://www.oipc.info.