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Invasive plants can become weeds

By Staff | Apr 21, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Deb Steransky, a Master Gardener from Mill Creek Township gave a presentation last month to the Muncy Garden club on invasive plants in Pennsylvania.

MUNCY – Plants that grow aggressively and become difficult to control may be part of a group of species known as “invasive plants.” Deb Steransky, a Master Gardener from Mill Creek Township, gave a presentation on some of these plants to the Muncy Garden club at their meeting last month held at the St. James Episcopal Church parish hall in Muncy.

She explained that the impact of these plants can be difficult to control, despite the fact some of them produce a pretty flower. “Anything that spreads quickly and displaces other plants, can be invasive,” she explained.

There are some common ones here in Pennsylvania, and although not native to the state, they have taken over some natural vegetation. “They can become dominant and alter the ecosystem and the soil composition, decreasing the biodiversity,” added Steransky.

DCNR says that most invasive plants arrived from other continents often referred to as “exotic” or “non-native.” They can become troublesome and alter the landscape.

Some of the plants that Steransky mentioned in her slide show include the Autumn Olive which was introduced in the early 1900’s as a cover to restore wildlife because it has “edible berries.”

Another is the Tartarian Honeysuckle which can be identified by its hollow stems. “The native ones are solid,” she said. The Multiflora Rose came in the late 1700’s and is cultivated as an ornamental to be used for erosion control, and the Department of Agriculture used it as a “living fence” to keep cows from wandering. “They are persistent, easy to get rid of, but come hack easily,” said Steransky. “Be determined and ready to replace with something else.” Consistently removing the tops will help prevent them from returning.

The Callery Bradford Pear Tree is another invasive, and is susceptible to blight that can easily spread as well as the Japanese Knotweed. This plant was introduced in 1800 and has an extensive rhizone system, especially along streams and rivers. “It is a challenge for anglers and hard to kill.”

Many of the invasives can be controlled by constantly cutting them back or using Roundup. “Pull them before they go to seed,” Deb said and gave the Garlic Mustard plant as a perfect example.

The Japanese stilt grass has long living seeds and can live up to 5 years, and the deer won’t eat them. “They choke out everything else.”

The Mile-a-Minute is a nasty little vine that grows with thorns. “It is an annual and hard to control. It goes to seed in August, so pull it out before then using gloves,” added Steransky.

Another plant, the Giant Hogweed, gets very tall and is hard to eradicate. It is found in a few counties here and introduced in 1877.

“Always try to grow natives and heirloom plants,” Steransky explained as they will attract the pollinators and are good for the food chain.

To control the invasives, remove them when their densities are low and replace them with the natives or other desirable plants.

She concluded by suggesting to scout your property regularly and to manage them over time by keeping them from colonizing. “This can be a pressing problem, but the damage they cause can be worse.”

The Muncy Garden Club will meet again this Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the benefits of herbs and essential oils. New members are always welcome.