What’s an invasive alien? It’s NOT little green men!
An invasive alien is a plant, or, in a broader sense, any organism, that has a growth pattern that is aggressive – it takes over an area – and it crowds out or damages native species. This ‘alien’ often changes the way in which plants, animals, soil, and water interact with native ecosystems, causing harm to other species in addition to those plants it has overwhelmed. [http://www.cipwg.uconn.edu/invasive.html]
What does that really mean here? Two-examples:
Black Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum nigrum) is a member of the Milkweed family. As such, it attracts Monarch butterflies, which lay their eggs on the leaves. Once the eggs hatch, however, the Swallow-wort provides no nourishment, and the larva die, reducing the population of Monarchs, specifically, and affecting birds and other organisms whose survival is intertwined with theirs.
Burning bush - Winged Euonymus (Euonymus alatus) – a threat to mature forests, fields, and woodlands because it out-competes native species. Again, when one aspect of an eco-system is diminished (crowded out), all of the animals, insects, birds, and the like that depend on the native species may decrease in number or even die out entirely.
One Sunday a month, spring to fall, weather permitting, Gail Cameron, SGPA’s Environmental Stewardship Committee Chair, leads a group of volunteers into the Quarry or to other locations in the Sleeping Giant Park to scout out and eradicate, where possible, invasive aliens. This past Sunday was one such occasion.
The group’s primary objective was to work on the containment of a massive patch of Japanese Knotweed that persists along the Mill River/Quarry Road. Each time the crew works here, multiple times each summer over the course of several years, they dig, cut, or pull the knotweed out. Now the plants send up spindly shoots as opposed to the very dense and tall thicket that was originally there. Once done in that space, the volunteers moved on to a large area of Winged Euonymus closer to the lower quarry. Here, in the past, a crew had used a weed wrench to pull out the large shrubs. Now, although there are many small sprouts that will continue to come up for several years, each year it will be easier to remove.
How Can You Help?
Join a work party, no experience necessary. (see sgpa.org for dates) Crews have consisted of local high school and/or college students with environmental interest, master gardeners, and folks who just love the Giant and want to preserve him for future generations to enjoy!
Why go out and pull “weeds” on the Giant? Help maintain the vitality and biodiversity of the Park lands. The Giant is fortunate to have a wide variety of habitat that supports rich and diverse native fauna and flora. By monitoring and management practices this group works to ensure suitable habitat for native flora and fauna to thrive.
Another way to help is to recognize and eliminate invasive species in your own yard and avoid using invasive species for ornamental plants. To be in the know, check the links below!
Hope to see you one of these Sundays!