Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: April 5, 2007

Don't Plant That!
Non-Native Invasive Plants

Chinese Privet and Japanese HoneysuckleA native trillium being overrun by Japanese Honeysuckle

While many thousands of wonderful different plants have been imported into this country over the last 200 years and many new ones enter each year, we've unfortunately imported some horticultural problem children that should have been left in their native lands.

The most familiar invasive plant to those living in the South is Kudzu which is from Japan, but did you know it's not our worst invader? Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) now covers more ground than Kudzu but is still sold as a variegated landscape shrub. Despite cries from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The U.S. Forest Service, The National Park Service, The Environmental Protection Agency and multiple private organizations, wholesale growers and nurseries refuse to discontinue its sale simply because it provides them with profits.

And as for profits, the destruction caused by non-native invasive species in this country costs YOU, the taxpayer, $137 Billion each year1 in damage to agriculture, ecosystems and the costs of control programs. That equals $457.00 for every man, woman and child in this country or $1,828.00 for an average family of four. Remember that figure when you file your taxes this week.

Below are some of Georgia's worst invasive plants - some of which are still sold in nurseries. These should not be planted, period.

Chinese Privet choking a wetlandAutum Olive invading a forest

Chinese Privet is sold as a variegated evergreen shrub for hedges, but it produces a blue-black berry that produces solid green seedlings. These are easily seen in forests and wetlands in the winter. Autum Olive (Elaeagnus spp.) is also sold as an evergreen hedge plant. It produces a pink/orange fruit which seeds into forests.

Chinese and Japanese Wisteria killing a pineMimosa seeding everywhere

Japanese and Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda, W. sinensis) can kill anything they climb. If you must have wisteria, grow 'Amesthyst Falls' Wisteria, which is native. Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) seeds so prolifically that it will have hundreds of offspring very quickly.

English Ivy everywhereJapanese Climbing Fern in a tree

English Ivy (Hedera helix) is often referred to as English Kudzu. This evergreen vine will climb and cover anything in its path. Because it tolerates almost total shade, it can destroy a forest quickly. Japanese Climbing Fern (Lygodium japonicum) is so invasive in Florida and South Georgia, that it can outrun Kudzu!

Japanese Honeysuckle choking treesPrincess Tree crowding out natives

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is an evergreen vine sold for its white fragrant flowers. However, this thug will twine its way around anything in its path choking it. Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is sold as a fast-growing, flowering shade tree. It has upright stalks of purple flowers. Yes, it grows fast and can produce thousands of offspring each year. It's also hollow in many places and has become a real pest throughout the South.

What angers me so much about these plants is that the "Green Industry" (those that collect, research, propagate, promote and sell plants) refuses to face up to the issue that they are unleashing plants to the unsuspecting public that will result in billions and billions of dollars in losses that we will all have to pay. When questioned about this, they will reply with a list of excuses. I've heard them all. If they don't come around and act responsibly, they will eventually find themselves under government regulations requiring them to do so. In other states, regulations are already in place, so it's just a matter of time in Georgia.

What Can You Do?

Refuse to buy invasive plants listed in the links below. Advise the nuseries where you shop that you will not buy them and that you would like to see these plants removed from the market and replaced with alternatives that are known to be non-invasive.


1Government Report: Invasive Species (PDF)
Invasive Plants of the Thirteen Southern States
Invasive Plants of the Southeast
Non-Native Invasive Plants in Georgia

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