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What's an Invasive Plant & Alternative Options

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

How familiar are you with invasive plants? What exactly is an invasive plant?

By definition according to the Illinois Invasive Species Council an invasive plant is "any species that is not native to that ecosystem, including its seeds, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm."

Many invasive plants were brought to the United States either by accident or we brought them back with us because we thought that they were a nice ornamental to add to the landscape or would serve a purpose such as erosion control. Since then, they have escaped our control and have invaded natural areas and cause damage to natural ecosystems. As we have begun to recognize those plants as invasive we no longer see them available in nurseries or garden centers.

For example, some plants that are now considered invasive include bush honeysuckle, kudzu (which can grow a foot a day), buckthorn, multiflora rose, purple loosestrife, and oriental bittersweet. Now we struggle to remove these plants from areas where they aren't desirable as they cause damage to natural areas and out-compete native plants. There are ways to control them and remove them from native areas, but it can take time, physical labor, and use of chemicals or controlled burned to get them under control.

Bush honeysuckle fruit (Photo Credit:Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

Purple Loosestrife in flower (Photo Credit:Eric Coombs, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)

Kudzu in flower (Photo Credit: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org)

Multiflora Rose (Photo Credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org)

Being able to identify and remove invasive plants is important for our local ecosystems and environment and working to replace invasive plants in our landscape with alternatives and native plant options is a wise decision. Why not consider adding some of these amazing alternative non-invasive plants to your landscape this year:

Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

  • A member of the rose family, Serviceberry is considered a four season plant – with white flowers in the spring, gorgeous red fall color, bright red berries, and beautiful smooth gray bark. Four seasons of interest is always a plus in the landscape!

Viburnum dentatum – Arrowwood Viburnum

  • Viburnums are great shrubs to add to the landscape and this one is no exception. It reaches 6-10 feet tall with white flowers in May-June followed by beautiful blue-black berries. In fall you can expect a range of fall color from yellow to orange to red.

Vaccinium corymbosum – Highbush Blueberry

  • I can't imagine anything better then fresh blueberries right off the plant. Though they need acidic soil, you can amend the soil to make it suitable for them to grow in. They are shallow rooted so mulching is beneficial to help preserve moisture in the soil as well as providing a layer of protection for winter weather for the root system. Prior to the berries, you'll have beautiful white bell shaped flowers and in the fall blueberries have the most gorgeous red fall color.


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