Beware of Backyard Invaders
The Nature Conservancy Urges Gardeners to Help Stop the Spread of America’s Worst Weeds
Brunswick, ME | April 14, 2009
With the arrival of spring, The Nature Conservancy is asking gardeners across Maine to check their yards and gardens for plants that can escape cultivation and cause tremendous damage to the natural environment and the national economy.
Plants such as purple loosestrife, kudzu, giant salvinia, multiflora rose and tree of heaven have been used widely in horticulture and landscaping, and can be found in backyards and business lots across the country. At first glance these plants may look pretty, but their beauty is deceptive.
Known as invasive species, plants like these are typically transplants from distant places. Once free from the natural checks and balances in their native habitats, these alien invaders establish themselves in new areas and quickly spread out of control. They hoard light, water and nutrients, and can alter entire ecosystems by changing soil chemistry.
With intentional and unintentional assistance from people, these problematic plants are spreading at an alarming rate, infecting natural areas across the United States.
“Keeping invasive plants out of our backyards helps the environment and the economy,” said Barbara Vickery, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Taking the time to remove invasive plants and replace them with non-invasive varieties is a great example of bringing new energy to the old adage: think globally, act locally.”
Because many invasive plants are spread by unsuspecting gardeners, The Nature Conservancy has created a wallet insert that gardeners can carry with them when shopping at their local nurseries. The insert lists the worst invasive plants for each region of the country. If you see one of these plants at your local nursery, consider buying another plant instead and talk to the nursery owner about stocking non invasive varieties.
Businesses as well as consumers can play a role. The Conservancy works with nursery and horticulture groups to encourage the adoption of Voluntary Codes of Conduct, which aim to stop the spread of invasive plants.
What You Can Do
You can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species. Help protect native plants and animals by following these six easy guidelines:
- Don't move firewood. Firewood can carry pests capable of devastating forests. Visit www.dontmovefirewood.org for more on this important issue.
- Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants. You may also visit the New England Wildflower Society’s website (www.newfs.org), which provides information on native plants as well as a listing of landscape designers who specialize in native plants.
- When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
- Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds, insects or other organisms.
- Don't release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild.
- Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.