The Problem with Invasive Plants
The majority of my time (and therefore the bulk of what my clients paid me) in various gardens in which I worked was spent removing invasive plants. As a matter of fact, the removal, control, and eradication of invasive plants are a huge expense for many communities, states, and the federal government.
Who pays these bills? Taxpayers do.
This means that a large amount of our tax dollars is being spent trying to control invasive species. In the United States, the estimated cost of controlling invasive species is $138 billion per year, introduced plants cost approximately $23.4 billion in annual crop losses, and invasive species now occupy more than 100 million acres and are spreading at the rate of 3 million acres every year.
Even if each of us could only help one person gain awareness of the damage that is caused when these garden plants escape into our natural ecosystems, that would be a good thing. There are a lot of us. Let’s all get to work bringing education and awareness of the damage caused by invasive plants to those that are closest to us!
The Invasive Paulownia Tree
Known as the Princess Tree, Empress Tree, and Royal Empress Tree, Paulownia Trees are highly invasive and are destroying native ecosystems from Maine to Florida and Texas, as well as the Pacific Northwest. However, open almost any gardening magazine and you’ll find adds touting the Princess Tree as an “amazing, fast-growing, shade tree.”
It is this fast-growing nature that is causing so many problems for native ecosystems. Growing up to 15 feet in a single year, the invasive Royal Empress Tree shades out and outcompetes native plant communities for resources such as water and nutrients.
Paulownia tomentosa thrives in disturbed soils, is drought and pollution tolerant, and easily takes over riparian areas. Every spring when it blooms, I am dismayed at how many more of these Princess Trees have gained a foothold along the wooded stream as I drive through my neighborhood.
The Royal Empress Tree can reproduce from seed or root sprouts, which grow very quickly. A single tree can produce up to 20 million seeds each year, which are easily dispersed by wind and water. Even though the light purple blooms are quite pretty, I have learned to be saddened by the sight of them, as they are running rampant through many natural areas near me.
Sale of the invasive Princess Tree is banned in Connecticut and it needs to be banned in all of the other states in which it has spread into natural areas. Continued sale of this plant is extremely irresponsible. If your local nursery is selling this tree, please inform them of how invasive and dangerous it is to our native ecosystems.
When Good Intentions Can Have Disastrous Consequences
I came across a website recently which has a great mission. Tree Your World is planting trees to sequester carbon dioxide in the hope of slowing global climate change. They are enlisting environmentally conscious affiliate organizations, corporations, schools, churches and individuals to join in their efforts to help nature help itself while profiting from the experience.
The problem is, they are planting vast plantations of Royal Empress Paulownia trees, which they describe as the world’s fastest growing tree. These plantations are creating a vast seedbank of this highly invasive tree, which will spread through native forests, riparian areas, and disturbed areas.
While they may be acting with the best of intentions, their actions are nonetheless very irresponsible in continuing to plant so many Paulownia Trees. Please use the contact form at their site to let them know how dangerous their actions are.
Native Alternatives to Invasive Paulownia Tree
Many native shrubs and trees make excellent alternatives to the invasive Princess Tree. Examples include:
- Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
- Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
- Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
- American holly (Ilex opaca)
- Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
- Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
- Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Contact your local native plant society for additional recommendations and for information on local sources of native plants.
Each of us can learn to make healthier choices for our gardens. We can learn to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife so that we will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators, frogs, toads, and other wildlife to share our space with us.
We can recognize that humans are not the only species that matters on this earth, and it is up to us to stop senselessly destroying their habitats, poisoning them, and making it very difficult for them to survive.
For me, it is learning to give something back. As a species we’ve destroyed so much wildlife habitat. We’ve chopped it up into smaller and smaller pieces so that very few species of wildlife can survive there. We continue to dump toxic chemicals onto our lawns and into our waterways. We have huge logging and mining operations in our national parks. We have a strange need to have a shopping center on every available open piece of land. We spew pollution from our cars and from some of our businesses.
Thus far, humans have been all about taking whatever they can, no matter the consequences to the other species who share our planet with us. For me it is more than time that we started giving something back to wildlife.
In every neighborhood and region of this country, there are plants on the “Most Hated Plants” list. What tops your list? Which plants to you devote entirely too much energy in an attempt to control it? Let us know in the comments below.
Also, make sure you hire a certified arborist for any tree removal you may be doing to remove invasive trees. Here’s an example of what can happen when you hire the wrong company to remove your trees.
Check out my new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week, teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden.
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