What is Ugly Now? — A re-visit
Our guest this week is Sylvan Kaufman: a writer; lecturer, teacher and consultant who helps people learn about, avoid and control invasive plants. Most exotic, alien or introduced plants have served people well. But some have escaped into the wild, for example boa constrictors in Florida, purple loosestrife in the northern US states (below). An invasive species is an aggressive plant or animal that has been introduced either intentionally or by accident, which pushes out or kills native species. The invasives can also change the environment – sometimes by actually altering the character of soil and making it more favorable to other insidious species. Purple loosestrife can dry up wetlands by lifting the soil right out of the water. A domino effect occurs, ultimately leading all the way up the food chain. There is also economic harm, for example in forests and tree farms where desired species are extirpated by undesirable invaders like Ailanthus, tree of heaven. Costs to control undesirable species, and from their damage to the environment and to commerce in the US have been estimated at up to $140 billion per year. As gardeners, the most important thing is to not intentionally introduce potentially invasive plants – especially if you live near wild-like areas. How can we tell which plants might become problems. There are lists on-line of invasive plants, but also consider the way plants grow. Suspect plants might include an aggressive vine that grows by leaps and bounds, a ground cover that is advertised as quickly spreading, a berry plant liked by birds, or a grass that colonizes vast areas in its homeland. Garden species that are known, as “pass along plants” should be declined if offered: When a gardener has too much of one plant, and it is very easy to propagate, it might be one to avoid. I call these plants “pass along pests.” Try to substitute local indigenous plants for exotics when possible. Using native plants to replace invasive plants can offer benefits from attracting more butterflies and birds to reducing the spread of invaders in your neighborhood.
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