Invasive Plants — the Great Escape Artists

November 11, 2022 Tammy No comments exist

The day is fine, or not, and as we trudge toward our destination the woods and fields provide a welcome backdrop.  Yet how aware are we of what plant matter is in the natural areas that we pass.   Many of us are becoming more adept at recognizing massive stands of vegetative interlopers along the side of the trail (garlic mustard, greater celandine).  We are also becoming more aware of the native plants that line the trails, especially the ethereals of spring (trillium, jack in the pulpit, spring beauty). and the keystone plants of fall (asters and goldenrods}.   We appreciate areas where there is clearly a lot of diversity in the plant matter yet how often do we stop to contemplate on what is missing when the diversity is lacking and say "Why".

It is becoming more and more apparent that common non native garden plants, originally imported for their culinary, medicinal or aesthetic properties are migrating to the woods.  Because these plants have no native predators, spread quickly through underground root systems that strangle out other vegetation or have developed survival techniques such as adding toxins to the soil which inhibit growth by other plants they have free rein.   
Many of these plants continue to be sold in garden centers throughout North America for home gardens.  While some are problematic even within home gardens others are popular choices which seem to cause few problems.  Often we hear "It does not spread in my yard". It is only when we see a monoculture of the plant in a natural area that we are truly aware of how some plants can be managed within home landscapes but are spread vigorously by natural means such as wind dispersal and seed deposit by animals that eat the berries, nuts or fruit or by intentional planting that creep into the natural areas. 
I believe that hikers have a role to play in protecting the areas which are critical to our sport.  Not only can we rethink what is in our own gardens, by eliminating invasives and planting natives,  but we can spread the word.   
Some of the common escape artists are listed below.   I have only focused on wildflowers and grasses.  You can find more info about these plants as well as invasive shrubs, aquatic plants and trees in  "Grow Me Instead Document:" which can be found at
Invasives Alternative   Invasives Alternatives
Periwinkle Wild Geranium   English Ivy,
Creeping Jenny
Wild Strawberry
Wild Ginger
Canada  Anenome,
Lily of the Valley Starry Solomon’s Seal   Orange Day Lily Michigan Lily,
Purple Coneflower,
Miscanthus Grass Switchgrass,
Indian Grass,
Pennsylvania Sedge,
Big Bluestem,
Little Bluestem,
Bottle Grass,
Ivory Sedge
Yellow Archangel,
Large Leaf Aster,
Zig Zag Goldenrod,
I have used many of the recommendations in my own yard.  I found have found wild strawberry to be a fast spreading groundcover which can be used as under planting for taller perennial and shrubs, reducing the need for mulch and reducing weeding. Other plants took a few years to become established  such as wild ginger and  foamflower.   
Mary-lyn Hopper (Master Gardener)

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