The Growing Cost of Invasive Plants

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Here’s a reason to think twice when choosing plants for your garden.

Invasive Plants are rapidly spreading across countries, displacing and endangering native species as it goes. To make matters worse, many garden centers and nurseries still sell invasive species to unwitting customers. These plants are taken home and planted in their gardens and soon after their entire yard is overtaken by the plant.

And it’s not just your yard that is at risk. More than 5,000 species of invasive plants have escaped into the wild, and that affects all of us. Check out the infographic to see the massive effects invasive plants have in the United States.


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How Invasive Plants Harm

Invasive plants have a big impact on our ecosystem and economy. Here are more examples of how they harm us.

Plants

When invasive plants spread they take over land that native plants could use. Leafy spurge, for example, is a creeping perennial that probably came to the US in a contaminated bag of seed. It’s taken over acres of prairie grasses and have invaded most West and Midwest states. Colorado’s last survey of leafy spurge in 2002 found the weed had taken over some 73,000 acres of land.

Animals

When a native plant gets crowded out, that effects any animals that rely on the plant for nutrition, too. Think about what would happen to pandas if their bamboo was decimated by a weed. Leafy spurge, the example from above, is a toxic plant to most animals in the area. This affects cattle farmers too; they have fewer and fewer acres to let their cattle graze because leafy spurge has taken over so much land.

Rivers & Lakes

It’s not just land that is in danger. When invasive species are introduced to waterways, they can take over vegetation and be harmful to both fish and boats. The Brazillian waterweed was accidentally introduced when people dumped aquariums that had the weed into waterways. The weed grows rapidly and creates dense mats of plant on the water’s surface. This impedes boating, fishing, reduces water quality, and provides poor habitat for the fish that live there.

Wildfires

Sometimes an invasive plant has properties that are extremely dangerous to a region. Downy brome came to the US through contaminated shipments from Europe and spread through the West. The plant germinates quickly and is very dry, which means the plant is much more likely to catch fire than other native grasses. Before downy brome invaded Idaho and Utah, wildfires would spread once every 60-110 years. Now they spread every 3-5 years.

Weeds

Most lawn weeds that plague us homeowners are invasive plants, as well. Even common dandelions and crabgrass are invasive plants that have been attacking our lawns for so long, we’ve just accepted them as the norm.

Islands

Hawaii has been devastated by invasive plants. Its native species were sheltered from the rest of the world. In a survey in the 90s, Hawaii was found to have 2,690 plant species. 946 of those were invasive plants that had caused 200 plants to become extinct and 800 more to be endangered.

Fungi

Sometimes an invasive plant might have be infected with a fungus or pathogen that then spreads with the plant. There are over 20,000 fungi and plant pathogens that have invaded the US and has accounted for billions in crop losses.

How You Can Help

There are many things you can do to help keep invasive plants from spreading:

  • See if you have any invasives in your yard or garden. If you do, take them out.
  • If you can’t get rid of an invasive plant, then keep it from spreading by deadheading seeds as soon as they sprout.
  • If you want to keep an invasive plant, keep it in a container indoors so birds can’t eat the seeds and spread them.
  • When getting rid of invasives, don’t compost them. Their seeds may sprout in your compost.
  • Keep an eye out for invasive plants any time you use store-bought mulch or seed. Invasives may have contaminated the bag and could sprout up.
  • If you have invasives and are travelling, ask someone to take care of them so they can’t spread while you’re gone.
  • Any time you travel, clean off your equipment before moving to a new site. This includes boats, ATVs, or even your clothes.
  • Don’t move firewood, as it could contain invasive spores or pathogens
  • Dispose of indoor plants and aquarium plants properly
  • Report invasive plants that you see in the wild.
  • Educate your neighbors so they know about the dangers of invasive plants!

If you live in the United States, you can learn more about invasive plants on the USDA’s website. Find out what invasive plants live in your state by using the Invasive Plant Atlas. Together we can all do our part to keep invasive plants from spreading through our ecosystem.

How do you keep invasive plants out? Let us know in the comments down below!

  • JULIUS OLUMEH

    This is a great piece, I am impressed on how detailed it is
    towards pioneering the handling of invasives at an individual level. I believe
    it has covered must of what can be done, or should be done. The best that
    everyone should do is sharing this information with the rest of the word in
    whichever means possible.

    • http://www.equipmentgarage.com/ Equipment Garage

      Thanks Julius, we appreciate hearing from you! We couldn’t agree more. Invasives pose a serious risk and more people need to know about it!