Beware the Invasion
The sand dune at this beach in South Carolina has washed away, but the beach vitex remains. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey
Pirates are not landing. There is no need to wear a tin foil helmet to protect you from aliens. Don’t bury your head in the sand either. However, do be aware of invasive plants!
Invasive plant species are being introduced and are becoming naturalized, displacing N.C. native plants. The problems with invasive plants are their fast growth rate, high fruit production, vegetative spread, seed dispersal and germination. Once established, they’re tough to eradicate. They disrupt our natural ecosystems by displacing native plants and animal species. Some even contain toxins that may be lethal to humans and animals. Insects, mammals, birds, fish and reptiles are dependent on native plants for food and shelter. When an invasive plant is introduced, it reduces the necessary nutrition for our native wildlife.
Invasive plants can be classified into five groupings: 1: Severe threat; 2: Significant threat; 3: Lesser threat; Watch list A: Will naturalize and may become a problem; and Watch list B – Problems in adjacent states.
I’ve noticed a few in my neighborhood in Morehead City with a No. 1 ranking. Some have shown up on my property without being intentionally planted: Silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate) and Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense). I suspect they appeared with the help of birds, seeds driven by the wind or roots that creep from nearby yards.
Some invasive plants are used by landscapers because of their rapid growth and the desire for a seasoned old appearance garden - the Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) being one of them. Even the beach is plagued by the invasive beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia), termed “the kudzu of the coast.”
How do we halt them? Stop planting them, prevent accidental introduction, manage existing invasions and minimize their disturbance to forests, wetlands, yards and other natural communities. Learn to work with natural systems AND use native plants in the landscape.
Please note: this Web site gives options on how to control invasive species.