Did you know that there are an estimated 7,000 invasive plant,
animal and insect species already in America, outcompeting their
Did you know that there are an estimated 7,000 invasive plant, animal and insect species already in America, outcompeting their native cousins? These intruders are creating havoc in everything from our backyards to our waterways and forests. The economic toll is staggering at $137 billion. The U.S. General Accounting Office has labeled invasive species “one of the most serious yet least-appreciated environmental threats of the 21st century.”
West Nile virus is the latest invasive import, so we’re not just talking about plants or animals. Yet, pests like gypsy moth and the emerald ash borer have already wreaked havoc. The gypsy moth arrived in 1869, imported by a French scientist who hoped to cross-breed the insect with silkworms. Instead, America got a pest that denuded millions of trees a year.
And what home gardener hasn’t heard the story of how the common garden snail was imported from France 150 years ago for escargot, and escaped to what we have today? One can’t plant a six-pack of flowers without fear that snails will devour them overnight.
There are numerous plant species grown locally that can become quite a nuisance if left unabated. Who hasn’t, for example, had to pull unwanted “volunteer” seedlings of privets, morning glories, iceplant or ivy out of their garden? A week doesn’t go by where I don’t pull tiny privet seedlings from my garden, thanks to a neighbor’s Japanese privet tree – and birds and wind that spread the seeds to neighbor’s gardens and beyond.
Pampas grass, with its large plumes of white stalks, is another garden pest. Eucalyptus trees, imported from Australia years ago, are known for their brittle branches and leaves that seemingly fall with any wisp of wind. Simply put, do not plant eucalyptus trees unless you have a lot of acreage. I cringe whenever I drive past a certain house in town that has a 60-foot red eucalyptus growing right on the border of two houses. Its branches overhang both home’s roofs, making for a fire hazard. Fallen branches and leaves also make for a constant mess in the gardens.
Suffice to say, you should think twice before planting any of these plants. Algerian or large-leafed ivy is a fast growing groundcover, but is not only invasive but also is a haven for rats, mice, snails and other pests. Even regular fruit trees, if left untamed, are a haven for Norwegian roof rats. That’s why it’s essential to pick overripe fruit regularly. Don’t let fruit ripen and drop to the ground, providing a feast for rats, mice and other pests.
Beware of invasive plant species that can quickly become more than just a nuisance.