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Forest Health Protection—Invasive Plants

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is an invasive plant?

A. Generally speaking an invasive plant is a plant that displaces native plants by its rapid growth and spread.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s invasive species website provides information on federal efforts and legislation to combat invasive species. http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov

Q. Is an invasive plant the same thing as an exotic plant, a weed or a non-native plant?

A. An exotic plant is a non-native or alien plant that has been introduced to a new area by humans. A weed is commonly thought of as an unwanted plant in a given area, such as a vegetable garden or lawn. An invasive plant is a plant that when transplanted from its native habitat grows aggressively, out-competing and displacing native vegetation.

Q. What is a native plant?

A. According to the USDA National Arboretum, a native plant lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention. In the United States, native plants are plants that already existed here at the time of the European colonization.

Q. How many invasive plants are there?

A. Exact figures differ from agency to agency. The Weed Society of America recognizes approximately 2,100 species in the US and Canada. The Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group estimates about 1,100 plants are invasive in the U.S. The Federal Noxious Weeds list contains about 94 types of invasive plants.

Q. Where do invasive plants come from?

A. Nearly all exotic plant introductions (invasive or non-invasive) are the result of human deliberate importations for either, agricultural use, landscaping and public or private gardens. Invasive plants may be accidentally introduced along with soil, plants, and seeds.

Q. What’s wrong with invasive plants?

A. Invasive plants spread into areas choking out or displacing the native vegetation. In doing so they may cause environmental harm or harm to humans.

Q. What are some control methods for eradicating invasive plants?

A. There are four principle methods for suppressing or eliminating invasive plants:

  • Mechanical methods include, hand pulling, digging, cultivating and pruning to remove or prevent seed production of invasive plants.
  • Chemical methods include the application of various herbicides to kill or limit the spread of invasive plants.
  • Cultural methods include replanting of recently herbicided or burned areas before invasive plants can become established.
    Restoration and landscaping with native plants or non-invasive plants helps to prevent the spread of invasive plant species.
  • Biological methods involve using natural enemies, either insect or disease causing organisms to damage or kill the invasive plant without harming other non-invasive plants in the area.

Q. What are the federal laws and regulations regarding invasive plants?

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Page Contact: Keith Tackett
July 5, 2011