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Spotlight on Non-Native Invasive Plants

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, December 29, 2015
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Every species of plant or animal has a native home – somewhere that it has existed for thousands of years. Non-native invasive plant species are plants artificially introduced to an area that is beyond their known historical range. They have no natural control mechanism in that area and flourish without the predators, parasites, diseases, and competitors of their native range.

Plant species are classified as “invasive” when their growth is aggressive and they reproduce rapidly, causing major changes to the habitats where they have become established. They alter these habitats and displace native species, even driving some rare species toward extinction. Because many native animals are dependent on native plants for food and shelter, they may have trouble adjusting their specialized diets to the invasive plants, causing populations to decline.

(Photo at left shows Tom Foti, ANHC biologist, standing in a privet stand.)

Isn’t it Just an Evergreen?

As children, we are taught that any plant that remains green and does not lose its leaves in winter is an evergreen. While this is true in some cases (holly, pine, Ashe’s juniper), non-native invasive plants can withstand our mild winters and flourish without the competition of native plants in the colder months.

I Like Seeing Some Green in the Winter Landscape, Why Should I Care?

Non-native invasive plants limit future use of public and private lands due to their rapid and unrestricted growth patterns. They can grow over trails, making the path difficult to see or traverse. Their rapid growth can make viewing scenic areas harder, if not impossible to do. (Photo at right shows non-native honeysuckle taking over as groundcover.)

They impact the health and regeneration of forests, spreading throughout the understory and suppressing the growth of other understory plants and reducing seedling development. This in turn reduces the number and variety of forest wildlife.

The U.S. spends more than $130 billion annually to eradicate and block entry of non-native invasive species (University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, February 2015). This figure does not include volunteer labor involved in invasive species eradication.

(Photo at left shows a trailor full of privet being hauled away from Railroad Prairie Natural Area.)

What Non-Native Invasive Plants Are in Arkansas?

According to the state report of the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, the top 10 Abundant Invasive Plants (by number of reports) in Arkansas are (greatest to least): Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), privet: [Chinese (Ligustrum sinense), Amur (Ligustrum quihoui), Japanese (Ligustrum japonicum), and glossy (Ligustrum lucidum)], sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), shrubby lespedeza (Lespedeza bicolor) , tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus), mimosa or silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), kudzu (Pueraria montana), Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), chinaberry (Melia azedarach), and bush honeysuckle: [(Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), sweet-breath-of-spring (Lonicera fragrantissima)].

Want to learn more about invasive plants? Try this ANHC enews article from 2010. You can also learn more about using native plants in your garden here.

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