By Elaine Mills, Extension Master Gardener
Some popular, even beloved, plants in Northern Virginia are not as benign as they appear. Because their seeds and fruits can be dispersed by birds and mammals at some distance from cultivated backyard landscapes, plants such as honeysuckle, butterfly bush, periwinkle, and rose of Sharon have become invasive, spreading to roadsides, streams, fields, and forests where they displace native species, alter natural plant communities, and degrade the environment.
Nearly 280 non-native invasive species have been documented within the Mid-Atlantic region. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Native Plant Society have identified 90 invasive exotic plants that threaten natural areas in Virginia. As of March 2019, 116 of these species have been documented in the City of Alexandria. On Arlington County’s most recent list, 77 plants have been categorized as invasive, with another 32 designated as posing a threat.
Homeowners can play a role in reducing the spread of these invasive plants by identifying and removing them from their properties. They can also avoid purchasing invasive plants that are still sold by nurseries for landscape purposes.
To help homeowners, the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia social media team is completely revising a set of fact sheets on locally invasive plants. To accommodate these revisions, the “Problem Plants and Native Alternatives” section under the Resources menu option of the MGNV website is now “Invasive Plants and Better Alternatives.” The revised fact sheets and several new fact sheets will be gradually uploaded to the website, and one fact sheet will be featured each week, both there and on other MGNV social media platforms, throughout 2020.
Each updated sheet describes problems associated with the invasive plant and suggests alternative native species that have similar characteristics and which, additionally, provide benefits for wildlife. Links on these sheets will take readers directly to fact sheets for recommended native species that are featured in our Tried and True Native Plants series.
Stay tuned for our updates – we will be highlighting the new revised plant sheet on White Willow on March 9, 2020. We look forward to hearing your feedback on this revised series at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following websites and online versions of publications are helpful references for the management of invasive plants, providing preventive measures, as well as manual, mechanical, cultural, chemical, and biological controls:
- Blue Ridge PRISM, Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management http://blueridgeprism.org/factsheets/
Fact Sheets on 12 of the worst invasives with separate detailed fact sheets on control methods. The information on the proper application of herbicides is especially important in ensuring their safe and effective use.]
- Global Invasive Species Database http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/
Searchable database with control data compiled from multiple scholarly articles and publications
- James H. Miller, Erwin B. Chambliss, and Nancy J. Loewenstein, Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. https://wiki.bugwood.org/Archive:IPSF
Descriptions of 56 selected plants found in 13 southern states, including Virginia, provide management strategies and recommend control procedures.
- Least Wanted: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas https://www.invasive.org/alien/fact.htm
Fact sheets edited by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy include control data compiled from multiple scholarly sources]
To learn more about the Invasive Plant Program in Arlington County and to participate in the removal of invasive plants from parks and nature centers as a Remove Invasive Plants (RIP) volunteer, see https://environment.arlingtonva.us/trees/invasive-plants/
The lists below describe identified non-native invasive plants in Arlington and Alexandria.