Out with the Invasives, In with the Natives
Photo: Invasive japanese barberry on the forest floor
Photo credit: Eli Sagor
Spring is my favorite season. I like to watch the colors change in the landscape as our native trees and shrubs bud out. It’s a beauty much more subtle than that of fall. Unfortunately, my joy is marred by the explosion of green as all the non-native invasive plants pop.
These plants irk me because we have so many delightful native plants that are being pushed out by the non-natives. However, I didn’t realize how harmful they are to our environment until I read Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home. He describes how many non-native plants were brought here by the nursery trade, specifically because insects do not eat them. This makes them ideal for a garden setting.
However, this trait makes them extremely harmful in the natural world. With no natural predators, often a longer growing season, and producing copious amounts of seeds, they out-compete native plants.
They disrupt our local ecosystems by reducing the amount of food available to insects. Since these plants come from another continent, our insects do not recognize them as food. This causes a decline in insect populations, which in turn causes a decline in all species which eat insects. Our local birds cannot thrive without a plentiful supply of insects.
Tallamy’s solution to this problem is the Homegrown National Park project. Since a great deal of land in the United States is lawn, why not add native plants to it to increase available habitat? This is something many of us can do in our own yards.
With so much bad news about the environment and the damage that climate change is causing, it is refreshing and encouraging to have something positive to do. Soak up Doug Tallamy’s ideas about restoring habitat and join the revolution!
Sandy Tosi is a Sierra Club member.