Invasive Species- What/Why/Where are they?
As a lover of plants and animals it is horrible to hear that an invasive species is taking over an area. I just read a post on Facebook from the Wildlife Society about the siting of a snakehead fish spotted in the Potomac River in Maryland. This is bad news. All too often we humans are careless about what we do. So what is an invasive species?
An invasive species is defined as one that is “1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Invasive species have negative impacts on biological diversity, productivity, environmental integrity, and wildlife and human health, and are especially dangerous near vulnerable or at-risk species.
To read more about the disastrous effects of introducing non-native/invasive species into your area read this compelling book by Kim Todd, Tinkering with Eden- A Natural History of Exotics in America. You will be shocked at the stories of what is happening to the planet, some in your own back yard.
I always hate it when there is bad news so I wanted to end this blog post with some hopeful/helpful tips:
That really cool plant at the nursery that you just have to have……. research it. Start with asking the nurseryman what it is, where it comes from and how big will it get. This is helpful, but a lot of times they don't really know the potential disaster that can occur. Take the name of the plant, go to the internet, google it and find out what others have to say. There are websites devoted to listing invasive species. I fell in love with a tree called the Princess Tree. It has beautiful purple flowers in huge clusters in the spring. After researching it, I found out it is very invasive as it can spread thousands of seeds and choke out native seedlings. It was from China. I found a native tree, the Northern Catalpa that has the same clusters of flowers, only in white, rather than purple. I decided to plant it instead. I found one growing in a stream in a parking lot by a gas station. I dug it up and it is now flourishing in my old home in New Jersey. There are always alternatives to that plant you just have to have. Research it and know what you are planting. You will save yourself lots of hours of weeding to eradicate something that is ruining your garden it you research before you leap!
Even if you are not an avid gardener you can put some native plants in your yard to attract birds and other wildlife. The National Wildlife Association has a Backyard Habitat program with simple steps to get certified. This is a fun thing to do with children as it teaches them conservation and ecology. DO NOT BUY exotic pets like iguanas, snakes, birds etc… These animals may not be "invasive"…….. yet…… but all too often people buy something for their children as a household pet and it gets out of control in the house. The homeowner doesn't know what to do, so they let it loose. Pythons are invading the everglades and iguanas are like squirrels in the backyards of places like Miami. Instead, watch nature films and documentaries about these super cool critters. Go to zoos and rescue sanctuaries where you can see them up close and personal.
What do you do in your own backyard to promote Native plants? I would love to hear from you.