Invasive plant species, as identified by the National Invasive Species Council, is when a plant establishes itself as a successful yet harmful plant in the landscape. Invasive plants are often exotic or non-native plants to an area that destroy native species and habitat. Proper identification and control is necessary to prevent widespread damage.
How Exotic Plants Take Hold
Invasive plants are often spread by human or animal activity states the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Birds distribute seed by dropping them in non-native areas. Humans may bring non-native species into the environment and let it grow into surrounding areas. Other animals may carry the seed in their coat.
Identification of invasive species usually requires identification sheets from your local cooperative extension service. Universities collect evidence of invasive species seen in the area. A spreadsheet includes pictures and common identification methods. Once the plant is identified, the sheet is used to find the best control method. Invasive.org has a large catalog of common invasive plants found throughout the United States and is recommended by the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Invasive plants are often identified by their effect on the surrounding environment. Direct preying and feeding by invasive plants on native species is one identification method. Invasive plants such as ivy may compete with native species for light, food and with the nesting sites of animals in the area. A large problem arises when invasive plants begin hybridizing with local plants, killing off native plants in a few generations. Quickly identify the invasive plant before the ecosystem deteriorates.
Invasive plants may cause problems with human health as well. According to the National Invasive Species Council, infections such as flu-like symptoms, respiratory infection and poisoning by plant is a good indication of an invasive species. A plant such as the Chinese sumac tree is known to cause inflammation of the heart. Contact your local university extension when an invasive species is identified in this manner for the best control practice.
Control of invasive plants may be difficult. Some control chemicals are highly poisonous and may leak into surrounding environments says the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Foliar application, basal bark and soil application, and cut surface application are often effective. Professional application of herbicide will prevent injury and ensure successful control in most cases.