Tactics for coping with invasive plants

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Have you ever given any thought to invasive plants and the damage they do to the environment? I know I had not until I attended a workshop held by a local soil and water conservation district.

I had known that certain plants were not native to Ohio and had been planted for a variety of reasons years ago, but I had never considered the threat these plants pose to Ohio agriculture and the natural ecosystem.

Definition

If you Google “invasive plants,” you will come up with a variety of definitions. However, the U.S. federal definition of an invasive species is: “An alien species whose introduction does, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

In addition, the federal government defines an alien species as: “With respect to a particular ecosystem, any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem.”

Nearly all the species of plants considered invasive are known for rapid growth, high reproductive rates, lack of natural controls and an ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions.

These characteristics have allowed the invasives to out compete the native species and therefore reduce the biological diversity of some of our natural areas.

How did they get here?

Many of the non-native plants in Ohio were introduced with good intentions. Some were believed to have medicinal qualities and others were valued for forage or erosion control.

Some species of plants arrived by accident as stowaway in cargo. At the time of introduction the potential for invasiveness was either not known or considered.

In Ohio, there are approximately 3000 species of plants known to occur in the wild. Of these plants, approximately 75 percent are native. The remaining 25 percent of the plants are considered non-native, but less than 100 species are known to be problems in natural areas.

Top ten

Here is the list of the top ten invasive species the Ohio Department of Natural Resources considers to be impacting the natural areas of the state: Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, autumn olive, buckthorns, purple loosestrife, common reed grass, reed canarygrass, garlic mustard, multiflora rose and bush honeysuckles.

These species are distributed evenly statewide and are the most difficult to control. In addition to the top ten species, ODNR lists approximately 50 other species that have either been well established regionally or they are watching for establishment in Ohio.

Some examples of those species would be Canada thistle, Queen Anne’s lace and Tree-of-Heaven.

Management

What can you do? As a landowner, you can make yourself familiar with the invasive species in your area. This will help you identify the invasive plants on your property. Early detection of invasive species makes the management of such plants much easier.

Treatments range from a variety of chemical and mechanical methods depending on the species you are trying to eradicate. This is where your local soil and water conservation district can be helpful. After you have identified the invasive plants on your property, you can contact your SWCD office for advice on how to treat that species.

We care about our landowners and want help you make informed decisions to help protect the soil and water resources on your property.

About the Author

Pam Smutney is the district program administrator for Harrison Soil & Water Conservation District. Smutney was raised in Belmont County and received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the Ohio State University. Smutney has been working with Harrison Soil & Water Conservation District since November 2010. Contact Smutney at 740-942-8837 or e-mail psmutney@frontier.com. More Stories by Pam Smutney

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