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As a Biology student, I am interested in controlling the spread of invasive exotics. These are plants that are not native to an area in which they are growing. As they grow, they can (and usually do) displace native species which would occupy a similar habitat and have to compete with these exotics for crucial resources (such as water, sunlight, minerals).

I used to feel that it was unimportant to control these exotic species. One plant replacing another plant, whatever. Well… it’s more important than one would think.

Certain species, such as Japanese honeysuckle, grow so vigorously that they out-compete not just one, but many different plant species. This limits plant biodiversity in the area. Why does this matter? Think about it. What is one function of plant life? Feeding wildlife. Many of these exotics do not provide food for wildlife, or if they do, they provide food for one type of animal. Take for example, an area in which several different species of shrubs and vines were growing. Birds could feed on their seeds. Bees could feed on nectar in their flowers. Small mammals could seek shelter in the many nooks and crannies, or even eat the fruits or seeds of these plants. Now imagine that these several different species of plants were replaced by just one plant. There are no more options. Maybe this plant doesn’t produce fruit, maybe it doesn’t have nectar… You get the picture. By limiting floral biodiversity, these invasives are also limiting faunal biodiversity.

I spent a good portion of today ridding our farm of some invasive plants. One, in particular, had gained a very strong foothold. Behold! The infamous Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). This plant, which is native to Northern Europe, has spread widely across the United States and other countries. It is quick growing and capable of growing in a variety of environments. Because of this, it has managed to outcompete many native species. 

I can’t get the photo to add. If you are unfamiliar with this species, a lovely image can be found here: http://www.ipaw.org/invaders/garlic_mustard/gm_flower_lg.jpg

If you are looking for something simple to do to help the environment, I recommend aiding in the control of invasive populations. It’s free and easy. Especially if you are targetting my dear friend, Mr. Garlic Mustard. It comes out of the ground relatively easily if you grab it by the base. If you see it pop up in your backyard, I recommend removing it immediately. You can add it to your compost pile if you want, or just throw it out. Its seeds remain viable for up to five years, so rememeber to keep an eye out for it every season.

By removing this plant from an area, you are helping to prevent it from gaining a strong foothold and therefore protecting many native species.

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