Whether or not border guards and high fences make any difference in stopping illegal entry into the United States, they have no impact at all the invaders in our midst every day.
Conservation officials remind us that invasive plants are a problem in our towns. And they’re a problem in our waterways as well.
According to the state’s invasive species coordinator, invasive plants impact endangered or threatened species, reduce diversity and wildlife habitat, impact water quality, damage property and can lead to the starvation of birds.
Japanese knotweed, bittersweet, purple loosestrife, multiflora rose, and burning bush thrive locally, and literally have a stranglehold on portions of our woodlands and roadsides.
But we don’t have to leave our yards to encounter invasive plants – plants we never put in the ground ourselves.
The invasives are many and varied, and some, such as burning bush and loosestrife, are pretty. That attractiveness doesn’t make up for the damage they cause. Homeowners can help control these invaders by learning to identify them, joining in volunteer efforts to control them, and carefully disposing of any soil that gets on clothes, shoes or tires during the eradication process.
Removing them by hand may work if populations are small. Chemical or biological control may help. Check with the state’s Cooperative Extension Service for advice. What invasives do is simple – they take over, crowding out native plants. It’s a battle we may be losing, and it isn’t a problem left to someone else’s backyard, because if the plants are there, or by the road, they’ll be in your yard soon.
Meanwhile, if you think the water is safe from unwelcome visitors, think again. With boating season underway, state officials regularly issue warnings to boaters to pay attention to what they might be putting in the water. At Beaver Lake in Derry, lake hosts check boats before they enter the water to make sure they aren’t bringing unwelcome weeds to a lake currently free from damaging invasives. Summers in New Hampshire now demand a new way to look at hitchhiking and littering – boats, trailers, motors, fishing equipment, bait buckets, and diving gear can carry aquatic weeds, leaving an infested lake in their wake.
With no natural predators, the plants quickly dominate native plants, fish, and aquatic life. That translates into impaired water quality and reduced shorefront property values.
Once an invasive gets a foothold, it’s too late. Prevention is key, and is the duty of every boater.
And back on land? Contact your local conservation commission, Extension Service or the state for advice on getting rid of invasive plants. This battle won’t be won unless each of us does our share.