April 4, 2013

Some thoughts on invasive species

A few days ago we took a walk at nearby Kiwanis Park. I bet Bill that nothing but skunk cabbage would be in bloom, but unfortunately I was wrong. Soon after we arrived we spotted the pretty yellow blooms of lesser celandine or fig buttercup (Ficaria verna), which can form extensive mats of dense leaves and is extremely invasive. Native to Europe, it was brought here as an ornamental plant.

We saw just a small clump of it, but I have seen mats of it covering the ground near the Olentangy River. These solid mats prevent growth of native spring bloomers like bloodroot, squirrel corn, harbinger-of-spring, and many others, which provide pollen and nectar for native pollinators and fruits and seeds for native wildlife. It is very hard to eradicate because if you try to dig it up, it leaves behind lots of bulblets and tubers which all can sprout into new plants.

Invasive species can have wide-ranging negative effects on natural habitats. Many arise from well-intentioned introductions of ornamental plants such as lesser celandine, and some are accidental introductions such as the emerald ash borer, which is killing millions of ash trees in the midwest. 

This week the internet has been abuzz about a very controversial invasive species, feral house cats. These animals kill billions of birds every year, and carry many diseases. Just about everyone agrees that they are a problem, but emotions run high when solutions are discussed. While there are basically no good and practical answers to the feral cat problem, here is a thoughtful article on the subject at this link.

What can individuals do to deal with invasive species? Here are just a few thoughts:
  • Remove invasive plants, such as non-native honeysuckle and garlic mustard, from your property
  • Join community efforts to eradicate invasives on public land. In my city an energetic young woman has started a group of "weed warriors" which is having work days to remove honeysuckle and garlic mustard from our parks.
  • Thoroughly research plants that you buy to be sure that they are not likely to become invasive in your area.
  • Thoroughly research any pets that you are tempted to buy to be sure that their care and feeding is something that you really want to take on. I've seen or heard of way too many dogs, cats, turtles, snakes and rabbits that have been dumped in natural areas by irresponsible owners. The animals suffer and the habitat suffers.
  • Learn as much as you can about invasives. Weeds Gone Wild is a good place to start. 
That's enough preaching for the moment! Now back to the fun stuff!

No comments:

Post a Comment