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Real Estate Resources: Homeowners' Guide to Invasive Plants

invasivie plants

We live in a balanced ecosystem, and that's why countless species of plants and animals have thrived for so long. However, disruptive forces can threaten this balance, and one of them is invasive plants. When invasive plants are introduced to an ecosystem, they can spread fast and cause serious damage. When you own a home, it's important to be aware of the types of plants on your property and do your best to get rid of invasive species.

What Are Invasive Plants?

Invasive plants are ones that are not native to the ecosystem they're in. Often, invasive plants disrupt or harm the growth of other plants or animals. These plants often produce a large number of seeds that help them spread out of control in their new habitats. Some of these plants may thrive on poor soil, and their roots can spread extensively, further increasing their chances of survival. Invasive plants are often introduced to new areas unintentionally through agriculture, trade, or landscaping, and they don't have many natural predators or diseases in their new home to keep their numbers in check.

Impacts of Invasive Plants

Invasive plants tend to out-compete native plants for important resources, such as nutrients, sunlight, water, and space, which suppresses the growth of native plant species. When native plants are crowded out, it disrupts the entire ecosystem; animals that eat those plants now have a shortage of food, and this effect trickles up through the food chain.

Invasive plants can also have different nutrient requirements and growth cycles compared to their native counterparts. This means that their presence can alter the soil chemistry and nutrient availability at different types of the year. The content of a plant itself can also threaten an ecosystem. For example, Scotch broom, a shrub native to Europe, can be toxic to livestock, and the plant contains highly flammable oils that can contribute to the risk of wildfires.

The economy can also suffer due to the effects of invasive plants. The invaders can crowd out the crops we grow to eat and those we grow to feed livestock, which increases the cost of agricultural production. Farmers can spend a lot of money trying to control invasive plant infestations. Some of these plants also damage roads, buildings, and other forms of infrastructure, as their roots can destabilize soil and increase erosion.

Examples of Invasive Species

One of the most common invasive plants in America is purple loosestrife, which hails from Europe and Asia. It was introduced to the United States for medicinal and ornamental purposes. Purple loosestrife grows aggressively, and one plant can produce up to two million seeds per year.

In an effort to reduce soil erosion and come up with better ornaments, Japanese honeysuckle was brought to New York in 1806. It has become common on the East Coast due to its excellent adaptation to a wide range of conditions. Many birds love eating its fruit, which means that they disperse the seeds greatly.

The Japanese barberry came into the U.S. from Japan in the 1800s as an ornamental shrub, and its seeds were used as an alternative to the popular European barberry. This shrub can grow in forest areas that have deep shade, and it's known to form dense thickets and crowd out native plants.

The Norway maple came to the U.S. from England in 1756. It was originally used as a shade tree but quickly showed its potential to dominate its habitats. It displaces the sugar maple and other native maples, and it's known to shade out wildflowers.

Kudzu has its origins in Asia and came to the U.S. in 1878 to serve as a forage crop. An invasion of this vine has a distinct look like a ruffled green cloak, and it can grow as much as 1 foot per day. It can extend over trees and shrubs, smothering foliage and strangling branches.

How You Can Help Prevent the Spread of Invasive Plants

If you want to prevent the spread of invasive plants in your area, first, avoid landscaping with these plants around your house. Most invasive plants start as ornamental plants sold at nurseries and garden centers. It's every homeowner's job to do their research before buying and planting anything new. When you first buy a house, you should also take an inventory of what's already there and remove any invasive plants from your landscaping before they can spread farther.

You should also make sure to always clean your hiking, traveling, or fishing gear to make sure that you don't spread plant species to new areas. If there's a boot brush station at the entrance of a hiking trail, use it before you begin and after you're done to avoid transporting seeds from place to place. Similarly, if you have a boat, wash it after removing it from a lake so that you don't bring aquatic plants to a different body of water accidentally.

You can also help to educate others about the dangers of invasive plants and advocate for policy change. You might volunteer at a local park to help get rid of invasive plants or to put up signs or hand out materials about them. You can also support regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of these plants and advocate for funding for the management of invasive species and habitat restoration.

By: Brad Sowell
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