Native Plants versus Invasive Plants
Guest Blog by John Peter Thompson
Invasive plants, as well as insects, diseases and animals, are organisms that did not evolve in the landscape but were recently introduced either intentionally or accidently. Non-native aggressive colonizing species are altering the natural history and landscapes of our communities and country. These plants, all of which are weeds either of gardens landscapes or natural areas are disrupting the ecology of natural ecosystems, displacing native plant and animal species, and degrading our nation's unique and diverse biological resources.
Non-native, aggressive plant species reduce the amount of light, water, nutrients, and space available to native species, alter hydrological patterns, soil chemistry, moisture-holding capacity, and erodibility, and change fire regimes. Some alien exotics can hybridizing with native plant relatives, resulting in modifications to a plant's genetic makeup; others have been found to harbor plant pathogens that can affect both native and non-native plants, including favorite, cherished garden ornamentals.
Mid-Atlantic native plants, those that existed here before European colonization, are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activities, such as urban development, and the accompanying introduction of invasive species. Unlike many non-native plants, native plants introduced into landscape plantings are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to escape and cause permanent alterations to local ecosystems.. The great variety of plants native to any region give gardeners options that work well in any type of garden design and reflect the uniqueness of the community. Natives are said to require less work, but actually they require different work, much of which is considered less taxing on time and resources.
Planting natives does not mean giving up on beauty; there is almost always a native alternative to an exotic introduction. For example, Japanese wisteria, with its showy flowers has an American original, Wisteria frutescens. Japanese honeysuckle can be replaced by the native trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. The pervasive, invasive English ivy has great substitutes in plantain-leaved sedge, Carex plantaginea; marginal woodfern, Dryopteris marginalis; alumroot, Heuchera villosa; Allegheny spurge, Pachysandra procumbens; creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera; Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum; and the evergreen Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides.
A native plant is a species that originates or occurs naturally in a particular region. This means the plants comes ready to work with you to create a dynamic place of beauty and function. Planting natives restores the character of our personal and local landscapes. Gardening with natives requires the same gardening tools and sense as exotic plantings; for any plant to thrive, it must be planted under the proper growing condition for that species (i.e., correct moisture, light, soil). But with these needs addressed, gardening success will be yours.
About the Guest Blogger: John Peter Thompson is a lecturer, researcher and policy consultant working on Horticulture, Agriculture and Bioeconomic issues working in North America and Africa. He is on Twitter @InvasiveNotes; blogging at www.ipetrus.blogspot.com "Invasive Notes" His website is: EcoSystemServices: https://sites.google.com/site/sustainablepolicies/
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