The aliens are coming, if they are not already here. And we don’t mean little green men from Mars. We mean plants—invasive plants, to be precise.
Some are sweet smelling, like Japanese honeysuckle. Some, like burning bush, have brilliant foliage. Others, like poison parsnip, are downright nasty. Brush up against poison parsnip and your skin might blister and peel.
The bigger issue with these invasive plants, however, isn’t whether we find them appealing or appalling. The problem is that they thrive to such an extent that they drive out the natives—plants that keep our environment healthy, and provide homes and sustenance for wildlife. The numbers can be alarming. The state of New Hampshire alone prohibits more than two dozen invasive plant species.
What can we do?
- Learn What to Look For. An online search of “invasive plants” will load you up with scads of websites that can help you learn to identify the worst offenders in your state. One of the best for New Hampshire is hosted by the UNH Extension service, where you can download a poster of invasive species. If you live on the Vermont side of the Upper Valley, check out the nonprofit website of Vermont Invasives. They have three different photo galleries—one each for aquatic invaders, terrestrial plants, and forest pests.
- Report What You Find. If you’re out and about and you spot an invader, you can—and you should—report it. Is there a Plant Police Force you’ve never heard about? No. But there are mobile phone apps and web-accessible databases that you can check out and learn to use. The most appropriate source for the Upper Valley is IPANE—the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.
- Dispose of Invasive Plants Properly. If you discover an invasive plant on your property, it is crucial that you get rid of it without spreading the alien invasion even further. Much depends on how the plant in question reproduces. Does it flower and send seeds out into the wider world through wind, water, animals, or people? Or is it vegetative, forming new plants from stems and roots? The folks at your local transfer station can help you sort some of this out. You can also find help at UNH Extension and Vermont Invasives.
- Landscape with Natives. When you’re planning landscaping projects, do a little homework first and make sure you only use plants that are native to your area. Granite Staters can purchase native seedlings from the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery. Green Mountain people can find sources for native plants through the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Everyone in the Upper Valley can find native flowers through the New England Wildflower Society.