A plant is a plant, right? Unfortunately, not all plants are universally beneficial. You may have heard of kudzu, an invasive known as the “vine that ate the south.” When plants are imported from other parts of the world, either accidentally or on purpose, they have the chance to escape into the natural environment. When they are able to take root, these newcomers have the potential to overwhelm the existing environment. They especially thrive where the existing natural forest has been altered or disturbed, which is common in urban and suburban areas.
Invasive plants have different impacts on their environment but are usually characterized by a few factors: unrestricted growth and no predators. These qualities allow them to outgrow native vegetation and even stifle forest regeneration by outcompeting young trees. Some invasive plants even produce toxic compounds which inhibit other plants from growing. Over many generations, existing forests may disappear if continuously overrun with invasive plants.
What can you do? You can do your part by removing these plants from your property. Do not purchase or install plants that may become invasive (see the list for Northern Virginia, Department of Conservation and Recreation Virginia Invasive Plant Species List). There are also volunteer opportunities to help take back the forest from invasive plants in local parks. Stay tuned for another article which will highlight several invasive plants and how to manage them.
For more information or if you are interested in volunteer events, please visit Fairfax County Park Authority’s Invasive Management Area website. Or call the Urban Forester of the Day at 703-324-1770, TTY 711.