Non-native plants real threat to woodlands

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

Several local organizations are collaborating to inform Tri-State citizens of an immediate environmental problem of which many citizens have little or no knowledge, even though it affects their lives directly.

Ohio University Southern is opening its doors to a cooperative effort by Iron Furnace Cooperative Weed Management Area with the support of Ironton In Bloom Inc. to provide a free informative seminar about the devastating impact the spread of non-native and invasive species is having on the surrounding woodland areas.

Some people’s immediate response is to think you are not involved, but if you’ve ever gone to a nursery or a local chain store and bought ornamental plants, trees, or shrubs to transplant in your own yard or garden, then you may well be part of the problem.

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Eric Boyda, coordinator of a “Pulling It Together” grant for Iron Furnace Cooperative Weed Management Area explains, “We are harming our surrounding forests by planting species in our yards and city gardens that do not grow naturally in this area. Good examples of these are the Japanese Barberry and Burning Bush.

Not being native to this area, they have no natural predator to hold their spreading in check. Many of them are prolific seeders and with the help of wildlife, wind, and water, they can soon crowd out native species in an ever-widening area, changing the whole ecosystem.”

Boyda said there are already some non-native species in our area that are out of control.

Dr. Frank Porter, a Meigs County expert on Native Plant Gardening, will present a logical and even pleasant way to approach the problem in a seminar, “Native Plant Gardening” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 in the Rotunda of the Riffe building at Ohio University Southern, 1814 Liberty Avenue, Ironton.

Porter asserts that the general public is unaware of the wide diversity of native wildflowers, grasses, trees and shrubs that grow in our own locale.

“Native plants offer a viable alternative to non-native plants in the garden without any loss of ornamental quality or beauty in the process,” he said.

“Also, replacing dependent non-native and invasive plants with native plants can minimize the use of water for irrigation and reduce, if not eliminate, dependence on fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.”

Porter, who has been growing native plants from seeds collected in the wild throughout the Ohio Valley and adjacent states for 25 years, points out that getting local growers to recognize and use native plants in the landscape is not only a way to solve a serious problem, but will bring about a more trouble-free and successful gardening experience in the long run.

“Tackling the issue of invasive species and convincing the public that native plants are viable alternatives might seem a daunting undertaking. But every day that we delay only makes the task that much more formidable. If we think that we are overwhelmed today, imagine what it will be like in another decade,” warns Porter.

All those who are involved in caring for plants, even minimally, should take advantage of this informative seminar — for your own immediate benefit, and for the future of our surrounding woodlands and the creatures who call it home.

If you would like further information, contact Eric Boyda at