Invasive Species – Why Should I Care?

Flowering Rush

This week is National Invasive Species Awareness Week and has been used by organizations to highlight some of our not so welcome species. Many folks do not understand the devastating impact of invasive species on our ecosystems and the economy; therefore we tend to continue with harmful practices. We plant flowers or grasses because we think they are beautiful but have no idea what happens when we don’t dispose of them in a way to prevent the spread of the plant into natural communities. Seeds are spread by wind, birds, animals and us. The Weed Science Society of America estimates that the cost caused by invasive plant species is $34.7 billion a year to the US. That figure doesn’t reflect invasive insect damage like those destroying our forests and landscapes. Companies continue to sell species of plants and insects that are invasive or that out compete and replace native species; all to make a buck with no responsibility for the results. I have even heard of a local nursery threatening groups to stop informing the public of the negative impacts on the plants they promote and sell.

Chinese Mantis egg case

What is an “Invasive Species”? The Michigan Department of Natural Resources defines invasive species “as non-native, rapidly reproducing species which threaten the integrity of natural areas”. These species also affect our economy in the millions of dollars spent each year to control and in the attempt to eradicate them. They out compete native species for nutrients, water and habitat; ultimately replacing them. Many if not all of these species have absolutely no benefit to wildlife, therefore replacing food sources with plants of no use to our wildlife that we so much enjoy watching here in Michigan.

Purple Loosestrife

One source of these is from gardeners planting these plants and then they escape into natural areas. You cannot completely if at all, control the spread from your garden. One way to help combat the problem is to plant legally obtained native plant species or those known to not be invasive in your garden. Do the research. We were initially told that Purple Loosestrife was sterile in the garden and would not reproduce because they would need another plant to pollinate with if they reproduced at all. Well guess what? Whether they were sterile or not or people planted too many to close, they have escaped and are a major problem. We are now importing insects to help reduce the populations. I hope the studies are right about these insects or we’ll have another problem when they run out of the target species.

Canada Thistle

I have begun a project that will take a couple of years to complete on the “Deceptive Beauty of Invasive Species”. The photos included here are in no way intended to sell you on the positive aspects of these plants, but to help you see the deception that draws people into using them. Whether it is the beauty of the flowers or the claims of benefits to wildlife, we need to be careful or Michigan as we know and appreciate it will cease to exist. Look at the big picture and the negative affect these plants and insects cause.
Rather than continuing to contribute to the problem, join in a program or workday at a natural area to help eradicate these species from our natural areas. Many conservancy organizations or the MDNR have these work days when you can make a difference. If you are interested I can send you some organizations to contact or sign up for their email lists with this information. For more information on Michigan’s invasive species visit: Please take time to research and learn about these species and be careful.

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