All over New England, invasive plants are disrupting natural habitats, spreading unchecked throughout backyard gardens and forests, and threatening plant and animal diversity. What are these garden thugs, and what can you do to stop them from creeping into your yard?
What are Invasive Plants?
Invasive plants are exotic plants that are usually introduced by humans, either purposefully or accidentally. Not all exotic plant species are invasive. What makes invasive plants a nuisance is their ability to grow, reproduce, and spread throughout a given habitat, crowding out more docile species and disrupting ecosystems.
There are several plant species that are wreaking havoc on natural areas across New England. Here's a look at the most invasive plants and what you can do to help keep them in check.
Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.)
Common buckthorn is a vigorous small tree that reproduces and spreads quickly. It is characterized by dark, glossy green leaves and small black berries. Common Buckthorn was originally introduced from Asia as an ornamental shrub. Although birds love to eat the berries as part of their winter food supply, invasive buckthorns offer no real nutrition for wildlife. They also form dense thickets, shading out native plants.
Removal: Cut trees down to the ground in late summer and treat the stumps with an herbicide containing Triclopyr or Glyphosate to prevent resprouting. Alternatively, you can dig out small stumps and use a stump removal service for larger tree stumps.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Garlic mustard is widespread throughout New England's woodlands, fields, and gardens. It is a small, biennial herb with white flowers and a distinctive garlic smell and taste. Native to Europe, it was probably transported to the area as a source for food and medicine. Garlic mustard threatens native plant and butterfly species by crowding out competitors and native food sources.
Removal: Because garlic mustard is a biennial, it only flowers and produces seeds during its second year. It is very easy to remove by hand pulling. As an added bonus, it makes fabulous pesto and a tasty flavoring for soups. For large infestations, cut the plants to the ground with a mower before they go to seed.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.)
Purple loosestrife is a perennial flowering plant with a square stem and lovely clusters of purple flowers. It spreads rapidly in wetlands, crowding out native grasses and plants. It was introduced as an ornamental plant, but is now illegal in many states due to the severity of its invasion.
Removal: Small infestations may be removed by hand or by applying a glyphosate herbicide. Larger infestations will require a professional assessment and removal service.
The spread of invasive plant species is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. Learn to identify invasive species in your area so you can remove these nuisance plants from your garden and yard. For more information, contact a business such as C S Flournoy Inc.