Fighting invasive plants on the road - and at home
The defoliation of a four-mile stretch of roadside along the heavily traveled Jones Falls Expressway connecting the city with the Beltway has highlighted the extent to which exotic, invasive plants have taken over our landscape.
As I reported in The Baltimore Sun, some environmentalists aren't tickled with the State Highway Administration's decision to spray herbicide on the overgrown vines smothering the trees along the JFX, rather than hack them out manually. They aren't all wild, either, about the state's choice of trees to replace the ones it's cutting down. SHA points out the weed killer it used is "practically non-toxic" and that the trees it's planting are to help screen the highway from nearby homes, not just to recreate a "natural" ecosystem.
But on one thing, everyone agrees: Invasive plants are a widespread problem, crowding out native vegetation and depriving native insects, birds and animals of their customary food and habitat. The home team needs help, and it's too big a problem for government alone to deal with.
Experts advise that the problem often starts at home - our homes. Many exotic invasives got their start as plants bought from a nursery to spruce up a yard or garden. But true to their name, invasives don't stay where originally planted - they spread readily, and are hard to kill or contain once established. That's why they advise us to be more careful about what we plant and vigilant about rooting out invasives in our midst.
For help in identifying what's native and what's not - and especially, what's invasive -- you can consult the Maryland Invasive Species Council, or the Maryland Native Plant Society (look under "Resources). Also the Chesapeake Ecology Center in Annapolis and the Adkins Arboretum on the Eastern Shore.
The Nature Conservancy has a handy "weed-watcher manual." If you want to consult with a real person, there's always the University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. And if you want to go native, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a guidebook on native plants for wildlife habitat and conservation landscaping in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Any other favorite resources on invasives and native plants? Please share!
(Baltimore Sun photo of defoliated stretch of Jones Falls Expressway (I-83), by Karl Merton Ferron)