June 14 – 20, 2019Vol. 21, No. 2

Invasives: The Plant Variety

Japanese Barberry

by Dale Finseth

I missed week one of Summertime in the Belgrades. So, I'll launch right into the first topic for the season: invasive plants. While plant life seems to be getting a later start this season, now is the time to begin identifying any "invasives" and try and mitigate their spread.

An invasive plant is defined as a plant that

  1. Is not native to a particular ecosystem/area,
  2. Can cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health, and
  3. Can establish and spread in natural areas.

While about one third of Maine's plant species are native, only a small fraction of those are considered "invasive". These have the potential to cause great harm to our landscape. Check the Maine Natural Areas Program list of fact sheets to determine if a particular species is considered invasive in Maine. The MNAP is the go-to state agency in Maine for answering questions and getting information about invasive plants.

There is also a generic state website for all types of invasives, i.e. animals, forest pests, aquatic plants, and terrestrial plants. These websites have "gallery views" available, which provide good photos to use in identification.

There is also a new, hot off the press Maine Invasive Plant Field Guide. It is a handy 3.75 x 8" field guide mounted on rings so that it is easy to flip through. The introductory price is only $18 until the end of June. After that the price will increase. To order one with credit card (Master Card or Visa), please phone 207- 287-2801. Or call 207-287-8044 or email maine.nap@maine.gov with questions.

Here in the local area we need to come to grips with the invasive plants that are doing damage to our natural areas and native plants. Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, and autumn olive seem particularly robust. Asiatic bittersweet vine — see picture in Oxbow article — and common buckthorn are also appearing more frequently. Japanese knotweed often gets established at a construction site or as we do landscaping. At this time of year, garlic mustard appears at the wood's edge. Your back yards are feeling the pressure of these invasive plants. There is a list of these invasive plants with names and pictures. Check the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes Village, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or our office and pick up some of the handouts.

The first line of defense is to accurately identify the plant. Usually trying to control their spread is the only choice. They will eventually appear. That's where the Field Guide comes in handy.

Recognize that there is a problem. That occasional plant out back with interesting foliage and a pretty flower might become a thick bank of vegetation if you leave it be. Look along the edge of the woods on your property and note the occasional spring clusters of white flowers which indicate multiflora rose. Next year that small patch of white flowers will be joined by additional mounds of nasty thorn covered plants. At that point removal is much more difficult. That area can become a breeding ground of fruit and seeds which get spread to neighboring properties.

Our natural landscape is part of what Maine is all about. Its future depends on the choices we make. When buying plants or moving them from place to place, consider whether the plants are likely to spread. Plants advertised as fast growing, prolific, and soil tolerant are often the ones that become invasive. Maine just won't be Maine if the plants dominating our landscape are all from away.

Managing invasive plants in the landscape is part of our effort to protect our Maine landscape. While we may talk about managing our tourists, the other "invasives," those people usually leave in the fall, and we frequently benefit from their visit. Not so with the invasive plants!

Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at 622-7847, X 3 or visit www.kcswd.org.