Invasive species are nonnative species, terrestrial and aquatic, whose introduction to new areas causes, or is likely to cause, harm to our economy, environment, and/or human health. The best way to control invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Once the presence of an invader is detected in an area, take steps to restore the ecological balance and eradicate them!
Invasive species cause economic harm. For example, Asian bush honeysuckles and Japanese honeysuckle have chemical defenses that can prevent other plants from growing nearby. This prohibits the next generation of oak trees from growing in the woods and future timber harvests are lost or reduced. When weeds such as Canada thistle or Palmer amaranth invade crop fields and pastures, farmers spend more money on labor or herbicides to remove them.
Invasive species, including plants, cause environmental harm by displacing or crowding out desirable species. This displacement impacts wildlife, which rely on native plants for food, shelter and habitat. Most pollinators are specialists and will not persist in an area if the native plants on which they depend disappear under a surge of invasive plants.
Some invasive species can be harmful to one’s health, too. The sap of poison hemlock, wild parsnip, and giant hogweed is toxic and can cause dangerous burns if it touches human skin.
The first step is to learn how to recognize invasive species. Go to the Ohio Invasive Plants Council website for factsheets and photos at www.oipc.info/invasive-plants-of-ohio.html. Additional information can be found at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ohiodnr.gov and type invasive species in the search), and Ohio Woodland Stewards Program (woodlandstewards.osu.edu and click on resources). If you are having trouble identifying the species in question, contact the Delaware County Ohio State University Extension office for further assistance at 740-833-2030.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all nonnatives are considered invasive (daffodils, apple trees, pheasants, foxes), which is why identification is critical.
The second step is to report occurrences of invasive species. Some species, such as the Asian longhorned beetle, can be easily eradicated if caught early. The Central Ohio Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management was formed to develop a coordinated approach to prevent, combat, and improve awareness of invasive species. Visit https://centralohprism.org to get involved in the effort in central Ohio and learn more about how to report observed occurrences.
The third step you can take is to volunteer for organized efforts to remove invasive species from natural areas and your own property. It is a learning opportunity as well as a way to give back to the community.
The fourth step is to help educate others about the threat of invasive species. Most people, when they see these plants with their green leaves, showy flowers, and fruits, do not realize how detrimental they are to our native plants and wildlife. They may not even know that they have an invasive species planted in their flowerbed! If each of us helped one more person to be aware of the harm invasive species can cause, the total impact in restoring an ecological balance would be great.
If this information is overwhelming, keep in mind that Ohio has fewer than 100 known invasive species. Break down your project into manageable steps and replace with native species as you go. Native plants are adapted to Ohio’s weather so they require little maintenance once established. Natives have deep and extensive root systems, which help rainwater and snowmelt infiltrate the soil, holding valuable topsoil in place and lessening the potential for flooding. You can be the change for clean water by tackling insidious invasives and going with natives!
Our website has information about our upcoming “Growing Healthy Trees” workshops for homeowners and our annual tree seedling sale. Visit soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.