What Not to Plant

What Not to Plant

Invasive plants may not seem "invasive" in our yards. The specific problem with these plants is that they have been imported, have no native pests (hence their success rate), spread themselves prolifically, and displace the natives that provide appropriate food/shelter for our native bird, pollinator and butterfly species. Kudzu is a great example, but I'm not worried about you planting kudzu. Really.

A few of the worst culprits in our immediate area are any version of miscanthus (Chinese silver grass), euonymous alata (burning bush), lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle), ternifolia paniculata (sweet autumn clematis), ligustrum vulgare (Chinese and Japanese or common privet), celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet), elaeagnus umbellata/augustifolia (autumn or russian olive), lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), and one of the newest "bad boys" buddleia davidii/globosa, etc. (butterfly bush).

All of these can be purchased at local nurseries, so vigilance is essential. Anything with "Chinese or Japanese" in its name is obviously not native.  "Japonica" means its from Japan. The very popular butterfly bush is from Asia, as well. It is now showing up in our national forests, and sweet autumn clematis has become an immense problem in Great Smokey Mountain National Park. There's some in my backyard--can't tell you how many times I've pulled it up. Some DOT person thought miscanthus would be great along the highways, and now it's everywhere. So the number one step to arresting the destruction of our natural bird habitats is to stop contributing to the problem.  If you are politically minded, instructing the DOT to stop planting non-native plants would be a great start.

Our native network of insects, plants and birds were all designed to work together. Some birds require a specific plant--that requires that specific bird--because of the shape of their beaks or some other adaptation. Choke out that plant with non-native species and you kill off the bird.

Butterfly bush is probably going to be one of the hardest plants for folks to wean themselves off of, because it appears to be a good thing.  It is highly successful as a nectar plant. There are no native insects (butterflies included), however, that can use the plant as a larval host, and plenty of natives that will serve for both nectar and caterpillar production.

Both the National Wildlife Federation and the North American Butterfly Association (links provided under LINKS) provide certification programs for people who would like to provide habitat for wildlife. In both programs, you are asked to limit or remove invasives. They don't ask you to give up everything, but the plants that make the "invasive" list should go. There are other requirements, of course, but that can wait for another post.

Great Neighbors

Great Neighbors

Urgency and Response (1)

Urgency and Response (1)