How to Prevent Invasive Plants
Which plants should be avoided in your neck of the woods? That's a good question to ask, says master gardener Paul James.
"One of the hottest topics in the world of gardening is invasive plants, and it's also one of the most misunderstood."
Invasive plants, also known as alien or even exotic plants, are those that are extremely adaptive and can quickly spread and take over native plant populations as well as food crops. In addition, invasive plants may also threaten animal populations by destroying their habitat and food sources. In fact, invasive plants cause more than $100 billion in damage in the United States alone.
Invasive: Chocolate Vine
This large, twining, woody climber has spice-scented, cocoa-colored flowers which are sometimes followed by long fruits. Editor's note: Keep in mind that what is considered invasive can fluctuate wildly by region/zone. These alternatives aren't necessarily perfect or worry-free, but are other options to consider and can be better choices for the environment.
Invasive: Butterfly Bush
Buddleja davidii, butterfly bush, is deciduous evergreen shrub with weeping form. Lance shaped leaves grow on long arching stems. Tiny fragrant flowers attract butterflies. Profuse flower clusters cause branches to arch even more. While butterfly bush is an excellent choice for attracting butterflies and one of the most common plants on the market, it does spread like crazy and chokes out beneficial plants. Should you never plant it? No. Just be careful with it—or consider one of the many alternatives.
Nearly all invasive plants, including common weeds, came to this country from somewhere else. Some arrived accidentally, perhaps in the form of a seed hitching a ride on someone's shoe, as a volunteer in a shipment of nursery plants, or introduced on purpose as ornamentals.
So what can you do? Here are some points to ponder:
- A plant that's invasive in the East isn't necessarily invasive in the West, and vice versa. There are a number of plants that behave beautifully in one part of the country while being a complete nuisance in another.
- Become familiar with plants considered invasive in your area and refrain from planting them. And, by the way, invasive plants may include both terrestrial as well as aquatic plants. You might also ask local plant retailers to either clearly label or stop selling plants that are known to be invasive in your area.
Paul recommends that you not grow these plants no matter where you live. These plants are considered invasive or at least potentially invasive throughout most of the United States:
smooth and glossy buckthorn
winged euonymus or burning bush
giant reed grass (Arundo Donax)