By Mason Denman and Brittney Whipple
What is an invasive plant species?
An invasive plant species is a plant that is non-native to the area in which it is growing. Conversely, native plants have occurred in their area naturally for many years, so they have a strong relationship with the environment around them. Invasive species cause harm to the natural ecosystem because they become competition for native plants. Many invasive plants were intentionally introduced to the United States for reasons such as landscaping and erosion control, however it was easy for these plants to escape those bounds to spread rapidly in nature and out of our control.
Several species of Privet can be found throughout Tennessee; however, the two found most are Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) and Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense). No species of Ligustrum are native in the United States. These plants were introduced in the late 1800s from China and Europe to be used in landscaping and gardens. Privet spreads rapidly in both forested and open areas by seed and sprouts. They are aggressive growers and tend to form dense thickets that shade out other plants. They are most invasive in riparian areas, where they can dominate the forest under story.
Fairly common in Tennessee, the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is a mostly evergreen woody vine. Japanese honeysuckle was introduced in the early 1800s, as has since spread rapidly, displacing many native plants by blocking out sunlight and winding its vines around stems and trunks to stop water flow. Many animals are attracted to Japanese Honeysuckle, so it’s seeds are often unintentionally spread this way.
Bush honeysuckle was imported to the United States in 1898. This plant leafs out earlier than most natives and forms dense thickets too shady for native plants to grow. It also tends to grow in disturbed environments, such as floodplains, and limits the amount of native plants that could resurface there. Although it’s red berries are somewhat nutritious to birds and rodents, they do not compare to the nutrition in berries produced by native plants for these animals.
Planting native species in East Tennessee
When planting new trees, shrubs, and plants, it is important to avoid planting invasive species. Planting native species will strengthen the ecosystem in our East Tennessee community by sustaining native animal species and limiting the number of invasive plants taking over. Native plants have adapted to the regional conditions around them, so East Tennessee natives are able to withstand the temperatures and weather patterns in our region, and may require less maintenance and fertilizers. It is important to take the time to research different trees, shrubs, and plants before planting and to be knowledgeable about the effects certain plants can have on the local ecosystem. The Tennessee State Government has provided a useful brochure about Landscaping with Native Plants in East Tennessee that can provide more information.
Join us for an Invasive Plant Removal event on May 4th!
Keep Blount Beautiful, the Little River Watershed Association, Blount County Soil Conservation District, and Tuckaleechee Garden Club will be hosting an Invasive Plant Removal of the Townsend River Walk and Arboretum on May 4th from 9am-12pm. Volunteers will be removing Privet, Honeysuckle, Mulitfloral Rose, and Mimosa from the area, as well as picking up trash. For more information and to sign up, visit our website.
The information and pictures in this article was obtained from the Tennessee State Government’s website. Learn more about invasive plants in Tennessee by visiting their Invasive Plants page.