In grade school, do you remember the decorated classroom doors? Each door had its own personality, distinct and characteristic of the teacher’s class. Looking back, one door in particular has been wedged in my brain. It was a colorful spring door that read, “April showers bring May flowers – but what do May flowers bring?” I’ve thought about this many times. Nothing has fit perfectly, until now!
April Showers bring Invasive May Flowers, but what do May flowers bring? Summer tourists, recreational activities, and the threat of spreading those invasive species - no one asked for that!We admire the beauty of spring. The fresh smells, the vibrant colors but do you ever stop to smell the flowers, and in that instant realize – this is an INVASIVE flower? Normally, no.
Let’s take a glimpse at some of these tricksters that entice you to pick, spread or plant with their great beauty:
Chinese and Japanese Wisterias: this gardener’s favorite is an invasive species that can still be bought in stores. It also will sprout easily from a cutting. But can you say, “choke?” This vine with it’s large, drooping clusters of lilac or bluish-purple flowers, curls tightly around trees and shrubs (even your beautiful arbors) and eventually girdles and kills them. Still love wisteria? There is an American Wisteria that is native from Virginia to Missouri and south to Florida and Texas.
Dame’s Rocket: the much-loved lilac-hued, cinnamon-scented wildflower blooms is another invasive species found as a gardener’s favorite. In recent years, Dame’s rocket has gone rogue, moving from yards and garden plantings into the adjoining landscapes where it is rapidly infiltrating waterways, wetland margins, farm fence rows and tree lines. Dame’s rocket appears to have allelopathic tendencies (the ability to produce chemicals that prevent or reduce the growth of other plants) similar to garlic mustard.
Garlic Mustard: yes, it sounds like a yummy sandwich spread but Garlic Mustard is considered to be one of the ten most destructive invasive species. Usually found in the undergrowth of disturbed woodlots and forest edges, recent findings have shown that this invader has the ability to establish and spread, even in pristine areas. With small white flowers and broad, round toothed leaves this plant grows as a vegetative rosette close to the ground where the seeds can spread easily by human feet, animal fur and the treads of bicycle tires.
Purple Loosestrife: while having a similar appearance to the native plants, Fireweed and Blazing Star, this invasive beauty is perhaps the most hated and best-known wetland species. This brilliant purple flower will spread as far as the eye can see, quickly crowding out all other wetland plants and destroying wildlife habitats including food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife, birds, turtles, and frogs.
Ox-Eye Daisy: Do you not just love the white daisies most commonly seen along the roadside? It is “loved” in all 50 states and has been prohibited in more states than any other wildflower, mostly for agriculture reasons. Do you still want a white daisy in your garden plot? Go for the close relative, the Wild Shasta Daisy!
What can you do?
The destruction of native ecosystems means that habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and many insects and other wildlife has been wiped out, leaving them no place to make their homes.
Getting rid of invasive species is no easy task. Sorry! Depending on which species you are working with, eradication may require mechanical or chemical treatments.
The most important thing a gardener or landowner can do is to be well informed. Don't believe everything you hear, but be aware of the problems invasive species can create. Be careful what you plant, and if you volunteer, try to direct your efforts against something important, like one of the true invasive species in your area.
As May flowers bring summer fun, let’s remember not to spread invasive species by taking the PlayCleanGo pledge and learn what you can do to help spread the message.