Aggressive, hostile and annoying are all words used to describe something that is invasive. The same can be said for plants. Plants are considered invasive if the species is not native to the local ecosystem or has disrupted the natural community or ecological functions. Invasive plants are introduced into a region either accidentally or intentionally, for a number of reasons. An invasive plant may accidentally be introduced through seed material, water or packing material. Intentionally introducing invasive plants into an ecosystem is done to control soil erosion, for agricultural and for ornamental reasons. Invasive plants can be very attractive and unfortunately problems may not arise right away. Therefore more are introduced into the new environment.
Whatever the reason a plant is introduced into a new environment, potential problems can occur. Invasive plants may lead to ecological, economic or environmental damage. Introducing new shrubs into an environment can create an infestation which leads to many issues. Altered water chemistry and food sources for fish, a change in the microclimate which may deter reptiles and an increase of ticks are just a few issues created by exotic or non-native plant species.
There are specific problems created by non-native trees and shrubs in Illinois. Autumn Olive is a decorative shrub that was originally planted as cover and food for wildlife. The fruits enjoyed by birds are then spread wide and far. The thorny shrub creates thickets in pastures, prairies and open woodlands where other plants are crowded out and access is restricted. Bush Honeysuckle is another invasive plant in Illinois. It has the potential to reduce tree growth by 50% and can suffocate new tree seedling growth.
Did you know May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month? Take the opportunity this spring to become aware of potential invasive plants before any new landscaping. Common landscape shrubs such as, Japanese Barberry and Burning Bush have recently been added to the Illinois invasive species list. There are many wonderful alternatives that won’t harm our local environment.