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.
Those of us who care deeply about native plants and habitats understand how important they are to our communities' sense of place. However, as we work to protect our plant
heritage from land development and other pressures, native floras across the country are facing a less obvious - but equally serious - threat from non-native, invasive plants.
Plants like kudzu, tamarisk, and water hyacinth can interfere with ecosystem function by changing important processes like nutrient cycling and flooding. They can hybridize with native species, resulting in negative genetic impacts, and can decrease biodiversity. Invasive species are second only to direct habitat destruction as the greatest cause of native plant extinction.
A presidential executive order of 1999 defined an "invasive species" as one that is non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental damage or harm to human health. Sometimes the term "invasive" is used interchangeably, and incorrectly, with words like exotic, alien, or non-indigenous.
In fact, many introduced, exotic, or alien species cause no harm whatsoever. Our agricultural economy is based largely on non-native, alien species such as wheat (Middle East) and rice (Asia). While many plants in the horticultural trade are introduced from other regions for ornamental reasons, the majority of these "introduced" species do not survive without extensive cultivation. Of those that do survive and reproduce, only about 15 percent are likely to become invasive.
Even as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act, today's modern transportation and commerce network is compounding the threat to healthy native plant communities by rapidly increasing the rate at which new, potentially invasive species are introduced and moved around.
The Wildflower Center considers invasive species a serious threat to the conservation of healthy plant communities. The Center is a member of the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species, a coalition of conservation organizations that tracks and supports legislation on invasive species and interacts with the National Invasive Species Council, a coalition of federal agencies that support statewide invasive species initiatives. The Center also provides early detection data to the National Institute of Invasive Species Science through the Citizen Science program.
In Texas, the Center is leading a new effort to address the issue statewide. Our "Pulling Together Initiative" is a partnership between state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, the nursery industry, and other stakeholders. Our goal is to determine the scope of the problems caused by invasive plants, raise awareness among the public and government leaders, and identify the most effective actions that should be taken to stop the spread of these plants. This November the Center will host a major conference on invasive plants. Another important component of the Initiative, our Citizen Science program, directly engages the public in detecting and reporting harmful species. We have created an informational Web site (www.texasinvasives.org) that provides more information on the conference and our Citizen Science program.
We all can help protect our native plants and healthy habitats by learning more about the invasive plants in our own regions and communities. As the problem grows, so too do the opportunities for conservationists to get involved in the detection, control, and eradication of invasives. Like the Wildflower Center, many botanic gardens, native plant societies, garden clubs, and conservation groups have organized efforts to control these harmful invaders. We hope you will join in the fight against invasives in your region and take action to help stop their spread.
Susan Rieff, Executive Director