Native plants lessen invasive concerns

Selecting plants that are right for your landscape takes more than sticking a pin in a catalog or clicking a picture on the Internet. It’s important to consider what impact that plant could have on the rest of your landscape.
In a recent Plant man column, I addressed the frustration many people feel when they find that their prized plants have been chewed to the ground by deer. I also referred readers to a Web site that listed plants that are “deer resistant.” Although deer will eat almost any plant when they are hungry enough, they find some plants somewhat unpalatable and some plants downright unpleasant.
A few days later, I received an e-mail from reader Ethan Kaiser, referring to one of the plants mentioned in the column. Ethan wrote, “Japanese barberries and their cultivars are actually exotic invasive species in the U.S. and are known to take over woodland areas and forest edges, especially in Wisconsin and the Midwest as a whole. They outcompete many native plants that the deer would munch on instead of landscaped plants.”
Ethan makes a good point. Japanese barberries are indeed deer- resistant but, left to their own devices, can become invasive. In fact, Japanese barberries are prohibited in the state of Massachusetts. As you may know, this column is published in newspapers in 30+ states, and can be read world-wide on the Internet. As such, unless we are answering a specific question regarding a particular geographic location, some of the information has to be somewhat generalized.
As visitors to our Web site www.landsteward.org know, Cheryl and I are strong advocates of selecting native plants when ever possible, but we do understand that in quite a few cases, it isn’t practical or feasible.
We strongly encourage everyone to do a few minutes homework and check out the pros and cons of any tree, shrub or groundcover before introducing it into your landscape. So what can you do?
For a start, what works well in New Mexico might be a dud in New Hampshire. Is this plant recommended for planting in your USDA zone? If you’re not sure of your zone, go to HTTP://WWW.USNA.USDA.GOV/HARDZONE / You can also find a comprehensive state-by-state list of plants that are found where you live at HTTP://PLANTS.USDA.GOV/ but note that these lists do include plants that are considered to be invasive. At that same Web site, you can click on a link to a list of noxious and invasive plants that you can sort by state, common name or scientific name. If you want to steer clear of possibly invasive plants, this is a good reference. Adamant about using native U.S. plants in your landscape? Take a look at a collection of articles and links on a Web site hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency titled “Landscaping with Native Plants” located at HTTP://WWW.EPA.GOV/GREENACRES/ Aptly titled “Native Gardening and Invasive Plants Guide,” HTTP://WWW.ENATURE.COM/NATIVE_INVASIVE/INVASIVES.ASP provides easy to follow information on using native plants while avoiding invasive plants. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a guide written for the home gardener rather than the horticulturist! The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is a good resource for a lot of current information on invasive plants. Go to HTTP://WWW.FWS.GOV/INVASIVES/ where you can click on a lot of links, including one titled “What You Can Do.” A note at that site points out: “In addition to the many invasive species from outside the U.S., there are many species from within the U.S. that are invasive in other parts of the country.” What is just fine somewhere else might be considered invasive in your location. Again, before you plant, I strongly recommend taking the time to find which plants will thrive where you live and meet your requirements, both esthetic and environmental. It’s an investment that will pay dividends for you and the landscape. The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org
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