Autumn olive, mimosa, English ivy, Lespedeza, Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, kudzu, Japanese stiltgrass, princesstree, Chinese wisteria, multiflora rose and bamboo. What do all of these plants have in common?
These are all invasive plants, of which you probably pass by several on your way to work each morning. With some research and a keen eye, you can spot invasive species encroaching on native habitats almost anywhere you go in Georgia.
So just how do these pesky invasive plants get to Georgia? Some are intentionally introduced as landscape plants and groundcovers, such as English ivy, bamboo and kudzu. They are then able to flourish in absence of their natural controls.
Others are unintentionally introduced by international trade. Seeds from exotic plants can catch a ride on a cargo ship and can then be accidentally transported quickly all over the country. With the size and frequency of modern commercial transport, invasive species will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future.
Most non-native plants that are introduced, usually in the form of ornamental landscape plants, don't end up being invasive or causing damage.
What exactly qualifies a plant as an invasive? The Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council defines an invasive plant as "any species, including its seeds, spores or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to the ecosystem; and whose introduction does or is likely to cause environmental harm."
To sum up, the plant must cause some sort of injury to our local habitats to be considered an invasive.
Damage caused by invasive plants can come in many different forms. Most invasives are weedy in their growth habits, and can rapidly reproduce. This can crowd out less vigorous native plant species.
Plants such as bamboo rapidly spread through below-ground stems and grow tall, stealing the sunlight and growing area required for native saplings to survive. English ivy can rapidly grow up trees, suffocating the trees by girdling the trunks. Japanese stiltgrass, a low-growing forest invasive, becomes so thick on the forest floor that no new trees can sprout. The decline of native plant species can lead to erosion problems, water quality issues and loss of native wildlife. Many of the weeds you have to pull up out of your landscape beds every year are invasive species.
Whether you are a hiker, hunter, farmer or gardener, invasive plant species affect your life in some way. If you would like to learn more about invasive species and how to manage them, join the Georgia Mountains Master Gardeners for a presentation by Karan Rawlins, Invasive Species Coordinator at the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
The presentation will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Lumpkin County Park and Recreation building at 365 Riley Road in Dahlonega.
The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.