Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
From the Editor - Spring 2008
Why Care About Invasives?
Those of us who care deeply about native plants and habitats understand how important they are to a region's sense of place. Even as we are working to protect our plant heritage from land development and other pressures, native flora across the country – in our backyards, along our roadways, on our farms and ranches, and in our parks and natural areas – are facing a less obvious but equally serious threat from invasive species.
Enter into a conversation about invasive species and it’s likely you’ll hear how they disrupt ecosystems, are costly and are the second largest threat to biodiversity.
In this issue of Wildflower, we discuss the proliferation of invasive insects as a result of global trade and a study by Wildflower Center ecologists measuring the effect of prescribed fire on one invasive species, King Ranch bluestem.
As we do so, I think it’s important that we be more specific in our discussion of the dangers of invasive species. Why should we care? There are many reasons:
Health: Some invasive species may cause significant health problems. According to the USDA, the Asian tiger mosquito, which arrived accidentally in tires imported from Japan, can transmit the West Nile virus.
Natural disasters: The California Invasive Plant Council reports that invasive ornamentals such as Scotch broom, pampas grass and eucalyptus increase fire fuel loads and are dangerous near homes.
Plants like giant reed (Arundo donax) clog creeks throughout California, reducing their water-carrying capacity and increasing the risk of floods during winter storms.
Agriculture: The USDA reports that imported fire ants infest more than 320,000,000 acres in much of the South and parts of the Southwest. They are a threat to crops and wildlife.
Recreation: Invasive plants can affect your ability to enjoy natural areas, parks or campgrounds.
Urban forests: Where certain invasive plants are taking over urban parks and greenbelts, we could be left with dead native trees covered by invaders like kudzu or Japanese honeysuckle.
Economic: The Georgia Invasive Species Council names the Asian longhorned beetle as a species of concern. The council notes that the insect has the potential to kill one-third of urban trees nationwide, for a compensatory value of $669 billion.
We created some of the problems related to invasive species when some of them escaped from our gardens. Global trade, which is responsible for introducing other harmful species, is a tougher proposition. But we can be part of the solution. We can support local groups that work to eradicate invasive species. We can garden smart. (For ideas visit www.wildflower.org/invasive. Be PlantWise is a partnership between the National Park Service, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The Garden Club of America and The National Invasive Species Council.)
– Christina K. Procopiou, Editor
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