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.
ONE OF THE GREATEST THREATS TO NATIVE PLANTS – second only to land development – is the proliferation of harmful invasive species. As you will see when you read "Invasive Procedure: How invasive plants wreck our gardens" in this issue of Wildflower, invasive plants are a global threat to biodiversity. Fortunately, native plant enthusiasts all over the country are mobilizing for combat.
Native plants, particularly some of the rare and threatened varieties just barely hanging on, have no defenses against newly introduced invaders. Too often those newcomers masquerade as pretty flowers, like purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), spotted knapweed (Centuarea stoebe) or sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica).
Invasive species – both plants and animals – are also an economic headache, costing the United States about $137 billion a year. Our public parks, roadsides, and urban and open green spaces are under assault, and cleanup efforts are expensive and often unsuccessful.
At the Wildflower Center, we're on the offensive against these bad actors, and we're proud to be national leaders in this effort. Damon Waitt, Ph.D., our senior botanist, is a member of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee of the National Invasive Species Council.
And in Texas, we helped launch the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council, which unites stakeholders from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, academia and green industry in efforts to stop the proliferation of these problem plants.
The Wildflower Center was also one of the original participants in the national citizen-scientist program that launched with the National Geographic PBS program on invasives as part of its series "Strange Days on the Planet Earth."
In 2005, the Center joined the Texas Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies to create the Invaders of Texas Citizen Science Program. This highly cost-effective program trains volunteer citizen-scientists to detect and report the spread of invasive species in their areas. Using Global Positioning System tools, they map their findings and provide the map to the agencies that can combat and control the invasion.
The premise is simple: The more trained eyes we have looking for invasive species, the better our chances of lessening or avoiding damage they inflict on our native landscape. The Wildflower Center, which conducts the training workshops, has trained 1,399 citizen-scientists all over Texas. Those committed volunteers have mapped 13,719 observations and logged more than 4,400 volunteer hours.
More recently, the City of Austin hired the Wildflower Center to create an Invasive Species Management Plan to better coordinate city efforts to prevent, detect, monitor and control 24 species that were identified for priority effort. After it is approved by the city council, Austin would be the second city nationwide to have such a plan.
Thanks to grants from the National Forest Foundation, we are expanding the Invaders program into six national forests and grasslands in Texas.
You can help, too. Become a citizen-scientist – you can take the course online at www.texasinvasives.org. Put some rules into effect in your garden. Know the common invasive plants and refuse to purchase them. If you can't identify a plant, don't put it in your garden. Don't dump aquarium plants into rivers or lakes. Clean plant matter off clothes, vehicles and especially boats – invasives are notorious hitchhikers. Use seed mixes and soil mixes that are weed-free.
Together, we can protect our natural and national heritage.
— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director