By Heather Raithby Doyle
Let's look at some of the myths around invasive plants, and since this can be a heavy topic, we have a fun word game to play at the end.
But first, what are invasive plants and why do we need to be aware of them?
The Ontario Invasive Plant Council defines invasive plants this way:
“An invasive plant is a non-native plant whose introduction negatively impacts native biodiversity, the economy and/or society, including human health. Second to habitat loss, invasive species have been identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as the most significant threat to biodiversity.
Invasive plants have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts. They reduce populations of native plants and the insects that depend on those plants, permanently altering communities and ecosystem functions, and costing economies millions of dollars each year.”
To be called invasive, a plant must be non-native, and create mono-cultures that are difficult to eradicate. Often invasive plants do not have insects or conditions in their new location to keep them in check. Native plants which create monocultures can be called aggressive, but never invasive.
When the topic of invasive plants comes up on social media, there are some well-worn misconceptions that get repeated. Here are some of the myths:
Myth 1: If garden centres sell invasive plants, they can’t be that bad, right?
Unfortunately government regulations are far behind in Ontario when it comes to the regulation of invasive plants. Garden centres here are not required to label plants that are invasive. Astonishingly, they even aggressively market plants like creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) as an easy-to-grow plant that will thrive in sun or shade. This description could also apply to other invasive groundcovers promoted by the horticultural industry: goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobolon), or common periwinkle (Vinca minor). Do some research and don’t purchase invasive plants. You could also let a nursery know you want to buy native plants instead.
Myth 2: I have been growing burning bush (or any other invasive plant) in my backyard for many years, it’s contained and not going anywhere.
Growing invasive plants will create harm to the ecosystem, it’s only a matter of time. Burning bush (Euonymus alatu), for example, spreads both by suckering roots and by seeds. The seeds are dispersed widely by birds to start new plants. In a forest environment this bush grows uncontrollably, eradicating native plants and the bees, butterflies, and birds that rely on them. Even if you are diligent about your garden, plants may spread to a neighbour, seeds may transfer on your footwear, or by the wind, or you may move houses while the plant stays and spreads.
Myth 3: There is nothing I can do about invasive species.
Respectfully we disagree! The first thing to do is become educated about invasive plants in your area. The pamphlet, Grow Me Instead by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council suggests beautiful and hardy native plants that can replace invasive plants in Ontario. You can also provide much appreciated sweat equity by pulling out invasive plants. In the City of Mississauga, you can join the Garlic Mustard Task Force, or the Invasive Species Stewardship Events. Both programs are currently closed but will start up again in the spring and require online and in person training. We will pass along the information on how to sign up once it becomes available.
Just for fun, we created a word scramble of some common invasive plants in this area. We used the common names…this time. Can you get them all?
YLLI FO EHT YELALV
ANSWERS TO WORD SCRAMBLE
LILLY OF THE VALLEY