As promised in my last article, this article will focus on invasive species. Sadly, there are so many that one article cannot do justice to the havoc these plants, trees, insects, diseases, and animals wreak in Ohio.
So what exactly is an invasive species? There are plenty of definitions but the one I think explains them best comes from the Ohio Invasive Plants Council website:
“A species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms such as microbes. Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions.”
These species are usually fast growers with high reproductive capacity and are adaptable and aggressive. They usually do not have natural enemies or predators to keep their populations in check.
To be clear, not all nonnative species are invasive. Daffodils, tulips, pheasants, potatoes, and wheat are not native to the U.S. and yet they are valuable to our economy, landscape, and quality of life.
I personally have an adversarial relationship with wild garlic mustard. This plant is a monster. A single plant can produce thousands of seeds which scatter several feet from the mature plant and even worse, it can continue to mature and produce seeds even after it has been pulled.
The entire plant, including the roots, should be removed and all plant material bagged and taken off site. We have a small drainage pattern near my house and it brings me new seeds every year which means I have to be vigilant or the plant will take over my world.
Another example that can be seen in and around Delaware County and Ohio is purple loosestrife. For many years it was promoted as an attractive addition for flower gardens. Purple loosestrife spreads via underground stems and can produce as many as a million seeds per plant, choking out vegetation that is more desirable to wildlife in our wetlands, marshes, and river banks.
A beautiful native alternative is spiked blazing star (Liatris spicata) which provides a similar purple flower on a tall, upright, clump forming plant and is a favorite of many pollinators.
Other invasives giving me headaches include several Asian honeysuckles, Canada thistle, tree of heaven (also known as stink tree for a reason), Japanese barberry, Callery pear, Russian and autumn olive, and common privet. There is a plethora of excellent resources devoted to invasive species and here are few to check out:
• Ohio Division of Wildlife at ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants/publications.
• Ohio Invasive Plants Council at www.oipc.info.
• The Ohio State University Extension at ohioline.osu.edu.
• National Invasive Species Information Center at www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov.
As gardeners, conservationists, and outdoor enthusiasts, it is just as important to know the positive steps we can take to improve our Ohio ecosystems. The Ohio Invasive Plants Council has a brochure entitled, “Alternatives for Invasive Plants in Ohio,” which can be accessed on its website.
The site also lists community workshops around Ohio including June 2, 2017 at Dawes Arboretum, Aug. 29, 2017 at the Gorman Nature Center in Mansfield, and Sept. 14, 2017 hosted by Columbus Recreation & Parks at the Park of Roses.
On a lighter note, you may wish to visit this fascinating website, eattheinvaders.org. Be adventurous — harvest and cook an invasive species! Savory recipes include garlic mustard pesto, baked carp in sour cream with wild mushrooms, or in honor of Ohio’s asparagus season, yummy wild boar tenderloin with asparagus sauce.
I think I will go home now and whip up a batch of that delectable garlic mustard pesto. I wonder if my family will notice.
Visit us at www.delawareswcd.org to check out our summer workshops including Soils & Your Home Sewage Treatment System: A Workshop for Homeowners on June 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brown Township Hall in Kilbourne.
The workshop is free and is cosponsored by the Delaware General Health District.