English ivy (Hedera helix), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), bamboo (Phyllostachys, Bumbusa, and Pseudosasax), and mile a minute (Polygonum perfoliatum) are just a few invasive species of plants found in Maryland. What is an invasive species and why are they bad for the environment?
The United States National Arboretum states that an invasive plant can “thrive and spread aggressively outside its natural range”. It takes up space that could otherwise be used by native vegetation that can serve as food and habitat for wildlife. Some non-native plants require frequent watering, making them an issue during draught conditions. Furthermore, invasive plants and trees have been found to “dominate millions of acres of forest, desert, prairie, and wetlands.”
The U.S. spends over $100 million a year to eradicate invasive species in just wetland areas alone. How many times have you driven by a wetland area and seen clumps of a really tall grass? Most likely it was the invasive Phragmites australis, also known as common reed. Although it helps conserve coastal marshes and reduce erosion, it blocks sunlight from other native wetland plants, reduces biodiversity, changes hydrologic flow, and creates habitat for limited species. Research has found that with its abundant growth it is able to keep up with sea level rise, which is how it is able to protect our coastal marshes. However, sea level rise is a whole other issue that we need to be aware of and take action against.
There are many types of invasive plants that can be detrimental to the environment. When landscaping your property be sure to check out the list of Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland and do your homework before planting anything in your garden. If you already have quite a few plants on your property, research what it is that is growing and see what benefits or harm they may possess. You may be surprised what you find.