While working as a naturalist a few years ago, I’d take kids on long hikes in central Ohio and point out the “tree of heaven.” We’d admire its beautiful red blooms amongst its fern-like leaves and then proceed to hack and whack at the trunks, pulling as many saplings out of the ground as we could. Appealing to the eye, yes, but like all invasive species, Ailanthus poses a real environmental threat to native species.
Once used widely in gardening, landscaping and erosion control, we very naively imported many non-native plants like kudzu, thinking they’d get along great with the natives and improve nature in general. Now we know better, but invasive species are still making their wily way into native territory and causing an ecological ruckus. (See brown tree snake or autumn olive.)
So what’s the best way to fight non-native plants and animals? The #1 way to fight invasives is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. How can you help do this? We’ve got six easy ways to combat and prevent invasive species:
- Make sure the plants you buy from local nurseries are native to your area. Surprisingly, some nurseries still sell varieties of invasive species.
- Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. Florida’s burmese python invasion is believed to have been caused by people releasing their non-native pets into the wild.
- When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
- Clean your boots and clothing before and after you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
- Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves.
- Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.
Want more info on invasive species? Brush up on your invasive species knowledge and learn more about common backyard invasive species.
[Image: Vinca flowers and leaves. Vinca is a non-native, invasive species. Image Source: Dave Bly/TNC]