Note: I’ll occasionally update this blog post with new photos and information.
Non-native plant species are simply plants that originate in a different region than the region in which they are currently growing. Non-native plants aren’t always a problem but sometimes they become invasive. Invasive, non-native plant species become a problem when their growth goes unchecked and they begin negatively impacting the health and prosperity of the native plant life (and the native fauna, by extension). Examples of our most concerning invasive plants are Autumn Olive, Garlic Mustard, and Multiflora Rose.
Non-native plants that establish sustainable, viable populations are said be “naturalized.” Plants can be naturalized but not invasive if their presence doesn’t negatively impact native wildlife. We have numerous naturalized species and many of them provide good foraging opportunities for humans and animals. Examples of naturalized plants that occur on our property include Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace.
Highly Invasive, Non-Native Herbaceous Plants:
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is native to Europe and highly invasive here because it’s prolific and there are very few animals that effectively forage on it. It tastes and smells like garlic and is enjoyed by humans in salads, etc. A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds that remain viable for years. They are easily pulled from the ground but you must dispose of them properly. I pulled hundreds of these flowering garlic mustard plants in early spring and heaped them next to my compost pile. Wouldn’t you know.. a week later, the dried up pile of plants was continuing to produce flowers and even going to seed. That persistent pile of weeds ended up in the fire instead.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. When it is bursting with purple flowers in late July, it is easily spotted in moist ditches and meadows, marshes, and alongside lakes. They are known to affect wetland habitat by quickly crowding out native cattails and forming a mono-culture that fails to support the same diversity of life. Using biological control methods can be problematic but it has shown success with purple loosestrife. The same beetles that control purple loosestrife populations in their native ranges were in introduced to Michigan in 1994. There is good evidence to show that these beetles specifically target purple loosestrife while leaving native plants unharmed (Blossey et al. 1994).
Moderately Invasive, Non-Native Herbaceous Plants:
White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba) is native to Europe and Asia. It can be easily pulled but it can’t be destroyed with fire. It must be disposed of in the trash.
Crown Vetch (Securigera varia) is native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. Eradicating this plant is not easy.
Highly Invasive, Non-Native Trees and Shrubs:
Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is native to Asia.
Multiflora Rose or Japanese Rose (Rosa multiflora) is native to Asia and invasive here. They produce large clusters of edible rose hips that have seeds that persist in the soil seed bank for decades. In the grey dead of winter, its bright red rose hips aren’t an unwelcome sight. However, the large recurved spines will destroy you as you attempt to eradicate it.
Honeysuckle We have non-native honeysuckle of both the pink and white variety here. The berries they produce are enjoyed by my chickens.
Non-Native, Naturalized Herbaceous Plants of least concern:
Blossey, B., Schroeder, D., Hight, S.D., and Malecki, R.A. (1994) Host specificity and environmental impact of two leaf beetles (Galerucella calmariensis and G. pusilla) for biological control of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Weed Sci., 42: 134-140.