Green plants are all around us and we love the sight of new leaves and flowers in the spring. However, you need to know that everything green is not always good. Many of our exotic, invasive, weedy plants are the first in the spring to start regrowth. This is one of the primary reasons why they are such a problem.
The general definition for a weed is simply this: A plant out of place. Invasive weeds are plants that are generally non-native to our area, and they cause big problems. These out of place plants harm our environment; harm the economy; and may harm animal and human health and well-being.
Invasive plants usually were introduced in to the nursery industry as plants that had very desirable characteristics for landscaping. Plants that are beautiful, unusual, hardy, drought-tolerant, or fast growing are wanted by gardeners and property owners for their home and business landscapes.
Unfortunately, some of these plants selected for these qualities may become invasive because they are so adaptable. Also these plants may be hard to eradicate even after it is found they can be harmful and not beneficial in the long run.
Keep in mind that not all non-native or introduced plants are invasive, only about 15 percent of these species become unwanted invasives. But it is that small percentage that is causing a very large problem.
These particular plants have escaped cultivation and have moved into our native areas. The invasives can overtake the growth and habitat of the native plant species, and eventually eradicate our Kentucky native trees, wildflowers, ferns, and shrubs. Our native birds and other native animals are negatively impacted as many depend upon certain native plant species for food and cover. It is difficult for the animals and birds to adapt to a new, and perhaps harmful, food source and loss or change of cover for reproduction and living.
This is a problem in Franklin County, right in our own backyards. All along our roadsides, woodlands, farms, untended lots, and even on the grounds of our parks and other public places, there are species of plants growing and becoming problematic.
Some of the more common invasive plants that you may recognize are Vinca, English Ivy, Wintercreeper, Bush Honeysuckle, Johnsongrass, Mimosa, Burning Bush, Multiflora Rose, Crownvetch, Kentucky 31 Fescue, and pictured elsewhere on this page, Garlic Mustard.
While you may have these very plants in your landscape, in many instances they have escaped and are now a major component and problem in our small wooded areas, farmlands, and parks here in our county.
What can you do to stop the invasion?
You can read about invasives in books from the library and on the Internet; you can stop throwing your trimmings from these plants into wooded areas; you can stop planting these plants in your home landscape, or propagating these plants.
Eradication requires diligence on the part of the homeowner and land managers to continually monitor for these types of plants and ensure their control. Continuous hand pulling and cutting back are the best methods, even though they are tedious and time-consuming. Application of herbicides labeled for such use is possible, but timing of the application is the key for control.
You can join with the state, city and county governments and other concerned citizens to begin to physically remove these plants from our homes, parks, school grounds, and other public places. You can attend educational sessions to learn more about these harmful plants, how to deal with them, and what to plant in their place.
For more information about Invasive Weeds of Kentucky, log onto http://www.se-eppc.org/ky/index.htm, the Kentucky Exotic Pest Plant Council or http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/, the National Invasive Species Information Center.
Or contact the Franklin County Extension Office, 695-9035 or email Kim.Cowherd@uky.edu.