To the Editor: No Place for Non-native Species

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No Place for Non-native Species

We write to express our dismay upon reading the piece by Marlene A. Cordon in your June 2015 issue. The article contains much misinformation about invasive plants and their impact upon native plants and ecosystems. We will address some of these:

1. Re: daffodils as “invasive.” Daffodils are not at all considered invasive. They do naturalize, but do not spread appreciably in natural areas and are not found on any invasive plant lists of which we are aware. Often, along roadsides, one can see areas where daffodil bulbs were planted and then multiplied. They are not deleted from invasive plant lists because they are “pretty,” though some invasive plants are considered by some to be “pretty.”

2. Re: “…usually non-native plants fill an area only after it has been left barren because of an altered soil profile…” One of the richest habitats in our area is along rivers in flood plains. Along the Rivanna River, there is an area considered one of the richest for spring ephemeral wildflowers in Albemarle County. It is infested with Garlic Mustard growing in the very rich soil in the flood plain. Garlic Mustard roots secrete a poison that affects soil fungi, which in turn has a negative impact on most plant species. We both see it in the rich soil of many wooded areas.

3. Invasive plants are “…also supporting our wildlife…” Dr. Doug Tallamy is a recognized expert in native plants that support native insects including caterpillars, which in turn provide essential protein for nearly all baby birds and many adult birds. These caterpillars are adapted to eat plants native to the area in which they live, and rarely are able to eat non- natives (that’s why non-native plants are considered to be “pest-free”—yes, pest free because the caterpillars that feed native birds cannot feed on them.) Non-native shrubs also tend to have a somewhat different architecture than native shrubs, which can mean that birds that nest in shrubs may not be as well protected from predators if they are nesting in non-natives.

4. Example: Japanese knotweed. This plant often grows profusely along stream banks in rich soil and shades and crowds out native vegetation. It can survive some flooding and rapidly colonize stream banks. It is not good at holding soil in place and, by preventing native vegetation from growing, vegetation that can help hold soil in place, it leaves stream banks more subject to erosion.

5. It is good to be concerned about herbicides, but most conservationists consider their judicious use to be part of the armamentarium needed to control the worst invasive plants.

There is no place for invasive non-native species in our landscape. Please do not encourage their use.

Nancy Vehrs
President, Virginia Native Plant Society

Ruth Douglas
Invasive Species Educator 
Boyce, Virginia

2 COMMENTS

  1. The most astonishing statement yet is in one of the comments by the author. Editors should take note of the anti-intellectualism sponsored by Marlene A. Condon. She says: “Please note that all of my writing is based upon first-hand observation and knowledge. It doesn’t come from books or any source other than what I’ve seen and experienced over the course of decades. That’s why I’m able to write without any doubts about this issue. This is experiential learning.”

    It is evident that she hasn’t read anything on the subject. Her ignorance about the several meanings of “invasive plant” and how to apply these words is apparent throughout the article and in the responses to readers’ comments.

    Do the editors of the Crozet Gazette really want this kind of writing?

    • Dear Beatriz,

      I take more value from the words of someone recounting their experience on a topic than from the words of someone who has simply read about it.

      It is unfortunate that disagreeing with someone is not good enough for you. Let us silence them, too.
      Now, that’s anti-intellectualism!

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