April 1, 2012
There are a number of ornamental vines that have turned parasitic in our area, meaning they take territory and kill everything they get their tendrils on. Many were cultivated as ornamental vines without thought or knowledge that they might turn on the rest of the plants in our individual gardens of eden. This time of year is the ideal time to identify and attack these plants some of which have been declared invasive and some of which should be. All the plants we will look at today are on the National Park Service least wanted plant list and though not all of them have been declared invasive, the Park Service and Plant Conservation Alliance agree they are very undesirable plants in our local ecosystem because left untended they will over power the local trees and plants.
The first is Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/loja1.htm. This is a common plant along fence lines and in woodland areas where it has taken root unobserved. Because it blooms and appears relatively mild mannered, it is allowed to wend its way through shrubs and even trees without interruption eventually stealing away sunlight and starving the host plants to death. Next is English Ivy: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/hehe1.htm This plant was the basis of “the ivy league” and propagated as an ornamental plant for a couple of centuries. Not only has the ivy league restricted if not removed this plant due to its destruction of the mortar between the bricks on buildings, but this plant if allowed up a trees will tap nutrients from the tree bark and sap while working its way up to cover the tree canopy taking away the trees sunlight and strangling it. Another innocent garden plant is Chinese Wisteria: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/wisi1.htm. I have been battling wisteria on my property for 14 years now, cutting it back, going after the roots, and even spraying it with herbicide in desperation and still I find it strangling my shrubs. A neighbor of mine allowed it to intermingle with an old hydrangea tree and for years they seemed to bloom in symbiosis until finally the tree was dead at the hands of the wisteria. Last but not least is Oriental Bittersweet: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/ceor1.htm. This plant is seen less in the garden and more on the side of the road covering over huge swaths of trees and shrubs that serve as the basis for local bio diversity and smothering them to death at an extraordinary rate.
Spring is a great time to identify and crush these vines before they crush your garden and our ecosystem. No you wont wipe them of the face of our state, but you will be protecting your trees and shrubs from vines that have no regard for them. Much like my neighbors tree, these plants will appear as enhancements to your landscape until it is too late and they become your landscape. Cut and remove vines wherever apparent. Uproot them and/or spray them with round up or a similar product. I’m not a big fan of chemical interventions, but invasives need to be treated like cancer. Just as you would gladly poison your own body with chemotherapy to save it, a little chemical intervention in a limited area will go a long way towards preserving the balance of your local ecosystem and garden.
For a longer list of local undesirable/invasive plants and ways to go after them go to PCA plant sheet http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/factpic.htm, each picture is a link to more individual information about the individual plant and how to handle it.
Posted in: Sustainable Gardening