The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. What are some actions that we can all take to help protect our Adirondack forests and waterways?
Be Plant Wise. Buy native plants and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs. Many invasive plants still commonly sold in New York have been banned in surrounding states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and others for years. Nurseries may not be selling purple loosestrife or japanese knotweed anymore, but Burning Bush, Japanese Barberry, Norway Maple, and Yellow Iris are all still commonly sold – and are very invasive.
When planning a trip to your local nursery or garden center, do your homework first. Bring a list of native plants with you and be familiar with which plants are invasive so that you can avoid them. Be sure to read the label and make sure the plant is labeled with a scientific name as well as a common name (Many different plants have the same common name. To make sure you know what you are getting, you want to check the scientific name). Scientific names including ‘japonica‘ such as in Fallopia japonica, Japanese Knotweed, are clues that the plant is not native. If it is called Norway maple, Siberian Spruce, or Zebra Grass, chances are it isn’t native either. ‘Officinalis‘ and ‘vulgaris‘ in a name are a clue that these plants are native to Europe. Examples are Ligustrum vulgare,European Privet, Lysimachia vulgaris, Garden loosestrife, and Saponaria officinalis, Bouncing Bet. When in doubt, search the USDA PLANTS Database or our own NY Flora Atlas to figure out if a plant is considered native to the US or NY.
As more and more of our natural areas are developed and disconnected from each other, our own backyards are becoming even more important. As anyone that lives in the park knows – nature isn’t something that is ‘out there.’ It is ‘right here’ – in all of our own backyards! Native plants are beautiful and come in a wide variety of textures, heights,and colors.
Looking for red fall foliage? Try Highbush Blueberry, Red Twig Dogwood, or Red Chokeberry instead of invasive Burning Bush.
Looking for a shade tree? Try a native Red, Silver, or Sugar Maple instead of invasive Norway Maple. Or if you really want the purple foliage, try the purple cultivar available of Chokecherry called ‘Schubert’s Red’.
Looking for a ground cover? Avoid invasives such as Goutweed (also called Snow on the Mountain or Bishop’s Weed), periwinkle (Vinca), English Ivy, and Wintercreeper. Yes – I know you are trying to cover the ground! But these plants won’t stay where you put them – and will be invading your neighbor’s garden or the nearby forest in no time. Instead try natives such as Golden Alexanders, Barren Strawberry, Moss Phlox, Wild Ginger, or Labrador Violet.
Other ways you can help protect our local woods and waterways include:
• Buy Local, Burn Local. Invasive pests and larvae can hide and ride long distances in firewood. Don’t give them a free ride to start a new infestation—buy firewood where you burn it.
• Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers. Be sure to Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat between waterways.
• Learn To Identify. If you see signs of an invasive pest or disease, write down or take a picture of what you see, and then report it to your local Cornell Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, or other local conservation organization. Or contact the staff at the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.
Photos: Above, originally planted as an ornamental, Japanese Knotweed is invading roadways and streambanks across the country and has made it into the Adirondack Park; Middle, Red Chokeberry is a great native alternative to invasive Burning Bush; Below, Barren Strawberry is a great native groundcover to use instead of invasives such as English ivy, periwinkle, or crown vetch.
Emily DeBolt and her husband Chris own Fiddlehead Creek Farm and Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY where they grow a wide variety of plants native to New York and the Adirondacks for sustainable landscapes.