Invasive Species

Invasive Species: The Wrong Plants in the Wrong Place

What is an invasive plant species?

So many plants in our landscape become invasive when planted in an area where they can overtake our native plants. Invasive species often thrive because they often do not suffer from what we call "pests." The "pests" are members of our natural biodiversity and have developed a symbiotic relationship with plants, having evolved together with these "pests." For instance, caterpillars often specialize in eating the leaves of specific plants. Natives may experience some damage from caterpillars (before developing into butterflies and moths), but the plants are not commonly killed by feeding caterpillars. Since gardeners don't like to see leaves with holes they may lean toward choosing pest resistant invasive plants rather than native plants to avoid leaf damage.

How does an invasive species spread and become invasive?

Most either spread by distribution through birds eating the seeds and fruit or by possessing vigorous underground root systems which survive even when the top growth is killed or removed.

Why are some plants considered invasive in some areas of our country and not in others?

Our country has different climate zones and growing conditions. Some plants can be more invasive and a bigger problem in some areas than others, especially where there is ample water and mild temperature variations. Each state has a list of plants which are considered invasive. To find this list, search on the internet for a listing by each state's government agricultural and forestry departments.

Why should we care whether we are planting native or invasive plants?

There is a whole, sometimes very small (in size) population of animal life which depends on our native plants to survive. When we choose to plant and encourage plants to grow in our gardens and yards which are not native, we often do not contribute to the much needed biodiversity on our planet.

How is National Garden Club, Inc. involved in promoting the planting of native plants instead of invasive plants?

NGC is just one of the major organizations seeking to educate the public concerning the importance of natural biodiversity. We do this by educating our own members about the importance of planting native plants and partnering with other organizations in educating the general public. We are active in all fifty states of our country.

Through educational programs on every level from locally to nationally, we hope to spread the word to others in our communities. Members often team with other organizations interested in educating the public. We work together to prevent the spread of invasive species through eradication and we encourage the sale of native plants for landscaping.

We also support hybridization and propagation of sterile non-native plants which do not become invasive through the spread of seedlings. Both amateur hybridizers and commercial growers are working extensively to produce these plants, replacing attractive invasive species with cultivars which are not invasive. These cultivars, however, do not support our native wildlife as well as our natives do.

The following are just a few of the organizations and groups who are also working to educate the public on the importance of biodiversity and which encourage the planting of native plants when possible. There are federal and state governmental departments devoted primarily to conservation and numerous volunteer organizations nationwide:

  • USDA Forest Service, Regional Divisions
  • Forest Health Protection Program
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere Foundation
  • Native Plant Societies
  • National Audubon Society
  • Land Trusts of the U.S.
  • Nature Conservancy
  • NatureServ
  • Sierra Club
  • Environmental Community and State Organizations
  • Departments of Environment and Conservation
  • Native Plant Societies
  • State Parks
  • Invasive Plant Control
  • State University Departments
  • Local Native Plant Nurseries and Vendors

The following books are recommended reading:

  • Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
  • The American Woodland Garden by Rick Darke
  • The Living Landscape by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy

There are also a number of books listed on Amazon and elsewhere which discuss invasive plant species. The different state forestry and agriculture services and state parks have publications listing local invasive species both in print and on their websites.

For more information, contact:
Phyllis Besch, Chairman: Invasive Species