Stopping the invasion

I should say, the invasives. Invasive plants I mean. And no, not just Japanese honeysuckle or English ivy, hardy bamboo or Kudzu. Unfortunately, some beloved and popular plants (like Burning Bush, Barberry, and Norway maple) sold in nurseries are very invasive and have proven to be very disruptive of local habitats, displacing native trees, shrubs, and perennials, upon which native wildlife depends for food and shelter. When native wildlife can no longer find their main source of food (berries, insects attracted to native flowers) because they have been forced out by invasive plants, this can significantly alter the balance of animal populations in an area.

Before I knew much about invasives, I planted Burning Bush in my garden (background); but, I did plant native Witch Alder  (foreground, the bright orange shrub)

Before I knew much about invasives, I planted Burning Bush in my garden (background); but, I did plant native Witch Alder (foreground, the bright orange shrub)

The reason some of these invasive plants are so popular is their adaptability, drought and heat tolerance, etc. But thankfully more and more people are becoming aware that native shrubs and trees and perennials are just as tough and ornamental, and actually help our native wildlife. Many nurseries now are promoting native plants, and some actually only specialize in them. Many state forestry/conservation department websites will have a list of both invasive and native plants so gardeners can know what to look out for. In many states, invasive plants are prohibited from being sold or planted, but in many others, like Virginia, the list is simply a guideline rather than regulatory. Where these lists are only voluntary, we can and should urge our legislators to ban the sale of invasive plants, so we can begin to restore our endangered wildlife and ecosystems.

For those who garden in the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southeast, I highly recommend Gil Nelson’s “Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens.” This guidebook expounds further on the importance of native plants, the dangers of invasives, and then goes into great detail on hundreds of native annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees with color photos.

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