A native species is one that occurs in a particular environment without human intervention. Species native to North America are generally recognized as those occurring on the continent prior to European settlement. Non-native (alien, exotic) species are introduced by people, from other continents, ecosystems, or habitats to places where they do not occur naturally.
Non-native invasive plant species are alien species likely to cause economic or environmental harm with a serious and measurable ecological impact due to their introduction.
Invasives often thrive quickly dominating new environments as there are no natural controls, e.g., predation, to keep them in check ( Many invasives have one or more of the following characteristics: 1) adaptation to disturbance; 2) broad tolerance for environmental conditions and extremes of light, soil acidity, and moisture; 3) production of large numbers of seeds; 4) high seed germination success; and 5) the ability to spread by ground runners or rhizomes.
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The Washington Township Environmental Commission has identified a grant and will be applying for funds to be used to raise awareness of invasive plant species in Washington Township. An invasive species is one that is a non-native organizm that is causing harm to the environment, human health or the economy. They are wshown to interrupt the natural functions of an ecosystem by impacting native plants and animals. The NJ Invasive Species Strike Team has created a website to learn more. http://www.njisst.org/NRCSGrant.htm
If you have a smartphone, the power to protect is in your hands!! You can use your phone to help stop the spread of invasive plants. Download the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team APP to help identify and share invasive species that you find.
Why are invasive plants a problem in natural areas?
Like an invading army, invasive plants take over and degrade natural ecosystems, wreaking havoc on the intricate and complex web of life involving native plants, animals and other organisms. Invasive species are extremely harmful as they: 1) out compete natives for limited natural resources including soil, water, light, nutrients and space 2) replace native plantswhich serve as food for wildlife with an inedible, toxic, or otherwise useless resource 3) draw pollinators away from native plants 4)hybridize with native species and 5)push rare species closer to extinction causing an overall reduction in native biodiversity. Some invasive species spread rapidly and can change the character of forests, meadows, wetlands and other natural plant communities into landscapes dominated by a single species termed “monocultures which have little ecological value.
Invasive plants impede recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking as they can overgrow trails and riparian areas or form impenetrable tangles in shallow water areas. Once established, invasives require enormous amounts of time, labor and money to manage and most are difficult to eliminate. One estimate of the economic impact of invasive species is $142 billion annually.
How are invasive plants introduced?
People introduce exotic plants intentionally and by accident, through a variety of means. Plants are introduced for food, medicine, landscaping, erosion control, forage, windbreaks and many other purposes. Many non-native plants have great economic value for agriculture, forestry, horticulture and other industries and pose little environmental threat. The potatoes that fed Ireland originated in the South American Andes. The apples we enjoy today originated in Kazakhstan. These are seen to be ‘beneficial’ plant introductions.
Many ornamental species have escaped from plantings to become significant environmental weeds. About two-thirds of the almost 1,200 plants currently reported to be invasive in natural areas in the U.S. were imported for their horticultural value. Japanese barberry, bamboos, privets, Chinese and Japanese wisteria, porcelain-berry, Oriental bittersweet and Princess tree were introduced and planted for ornamental purposes and are now major weeds of natural habitats, requiring significant resources to attempt to control. Other
species have been introduced unknowingly on various imported products soil, water used for ship ballast or packing materials. Japanese stiltgrass, one of our most insidious invasive grasses, was used as packing material for porcelain and likely got a start when some material containing seed was deposited outdoors.
Once established in a new environment exotic species are able to proliferate and expand over large areas and become invasive pests.
How you can prevent the spread of invasive plants
Become familiar with invasive plant species in your area and avoid using them. When selecting plants for landscaping, check the list before purchasing to avoid buying any that are known to be invasive or have a reputation for being weedy. Use native plants whenever possible that are native to the ecological region where you want to use them. Request nurseries to carry a wide variety of native species and offer some suggestions for plants you’ve been looking for. Consumer demand is a powerful tool that can be a major driver behind greater diversity and supply of natives.
If you have invasive plants on your property, consider removing them and replacing them with native species. When visiting a natural area, be alert for invasive species. If you see some, notify the agency or organization responsible for managing the land. Before you leave, avoid carrying “hitchhiking” plant material by taking time to brush seeds from clothing and shoes and remove plant material from boats, trailers and other items.
Taking action against invasive plants involves consideration of the various tools and techniques available for each plant and situation including site conditions, time of year, and resources available. Secondary and unintended consequences of control should also be considered.
The goal is to achieve effective long-term control and eventual restoration by using approaches that pose the least risk of harm to people - especially those conducting the work - and to the environment including non-target plants and wildlife. The bottom line is that the target species will be successfully controlled or at least reduced to a manageable level. This approach is referred to as integrated pest management (IPM).
Often, the most effective method may be to do nothing at all until a suitable safe and well-thought-out tactic can be found. Each method comes with its own set of risks. Use of herbicides poses risks and requirements associated with mixing, application, rinsing, disposal and storage. In order to avoid harm to yourself and others, to non-target plants and animals (including pets), and to the environment, especially in the case of an accidental spill, it is imperative that you are properly and sufficiently trained. No one should be applying herbicides without full knowledge about: 1) reading a pesticide label; 2) what the requirements for applying pesticides in your state are; 3) how to contact the company if there are questions about using the product; 4) how to measure the concentrate; 5) what type of personal protective equipment is required during mixing and application; 6) what type of application equipment is recommended and most appropriate to your situation; 7) calibration of spray equipment, 8) rinsing and cleaning sprayers; and 9) disposal of unused mix, concentrate and containers.
Pesticide use by homeowners on their own property requires that the pesticide be allowed for residential use and that the product is not a Restricted Use pesticide, meaning it can only be applied by a licensed applicator. Application of pesticides on public lands and other properties generally requires certification with the Department of Agriculture in your state, which involves training and testing. Contact the agency in your state responsible for pesticides for more information.
Additional methods and approaches are available and can be obtained by contacting organizations and specialists in the region. It is up to each individual to know and abide by the regulations applicable to the area where herbicide applications will be done. Use pesticides wisely: always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended personal protective gear and clothing. Contact your state department of agriculture for any additional pesticide use requirements, restrictions or recommendations.
If plants are pulled up, soil disturbance could bring more weed seed to the surface or facilitate invasion by additional invasive plants. The act of physically removing plants prepares the ground for the next crop of invasives. Lists of native plants are available from most state native plant societies and some state natural resources agencies. Check out Resources page for further guidance. Some great sources of information on the importance and selection of native plants that provide food and shelter for native butterflies, birds, mammals and other wildlife are:
1) Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded by Douglas Tallamy,
2) Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office,
3) Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation, by Donald J. Leonard,
4) Designing Gardens with the Flora of the American Northeast, by CarolynSummers, and
5) the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Information Network (see References).