What are invasive plants?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, invasive plants are defined as “non-native to the ecosystem” and “whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is defined as “the different kinds of life in one area that make up our natural world,” working together to maintain balance and support life.
How do invasive plants harm biodiversity and habitats?
Certain invasive species can harm habitats by competing with native plants for their resources, altering their environment, spreading disease and parasitism, or preying on other organisms.
Here is a list of the four most common invasive plants in the United States and their ranking from most invasive to least invasive:
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Dominate other plants in wetlands and produce over 2 million seeds per year.
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Eastern Asia, Japan, and Korea.
A vine that smothers and takes sunshine away from other vegetation.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Can handle all conditions and slowly kill trees by reducing light.
Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)
China, India, Korea, and Malaysia.
Replaces native vegetation and crowds out other early-season plants.
Here are four, from most to least, invasive plants all around the world:
Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii)
Competes with indigenous vegetation and reduces native biodiversity.
Shoebutton ardisia (Ardisia elliptica)
India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Guinea.
High reproduction of seeds lead to rapid spread across a landscape.
Giant Reed (Arundo donax)
Asia, southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East.
Alters the hydrology of the soil (ability of roots to reach groundwater), invades riparian areas (land along bodies of water), and replaces native species.
Killer alga (Caulerpa taxifolia)
India and Pacific Oceans.
Dense monocultures,growing one species at a time, prevent growth of native seaweeds.
There are numerous ways to help decrease the impact of these invasive plants. Below are the top five ways to restore biodiversity:
- Volunteer at removal efforts
- Joining community programs to remove invasive species can help your local ecosystem. This can also be done in your own backyard if necessary.
2. Do not release aquarium fish and plants into the wild
- Main household or exotic fish — goldfish for example — are invasive in the wild. They consume resources meant for native aquatic life, which reduces the number of native species. To learn how to properly dispose of exotic fish, contact a local veterinarian or pet retailer for more details. When removing invasive plants, bag them separate from other waste to prevent spending then dispose of them in trash waste, not yard waste.
3. Research your plant purchases
- Visit local plant nurseries or plant shops to ensure that the plants you buy are harmless and native to your region.
4. Moving firewood
- Invasive species can inhabit dead or dying trees, which can be spread by people transferring wood from one place to another. Instead, buy firewood from local firewood providers.
5. Use native bait when fishing
- Bait usually consists of invasive worms or fish, so they may spread onto caught fish and other aquatic species. Instead, there are many homemade recipes at Take Me Fishing utilizing common household ingredients. If that takes too much time, scraps from food waste is a great alternative; for example, Catfish love smelly foods especially wrapped in cheesecloth.
Ultimately, if an invasive species appears, make sure to consider the list above and call the Department of Agriculture or forest management from the appropriate region.