Thermometer, birds, aromas are all declaring spring. False information or not, gardeners, new and experienced, are looking at catalogs and assessing the remains of last year's flowerbeds.
Before we get too involved, it would be worthwhile to take a walk in a healthy woodland, state nature preserve or a woodland garden tended by someone who dotes on native plants. Perhaps if we see those woodland spring flowers that are so threatened by Non-Native Invasive Plant Species our resolve not to do anything that would endanger them would become more fixed.
We can take few personal actions that could have serious ecological consequences than what we decide to plant on our land or land we manage whether a half-acre or 100 acres. Seeds or other propagules that enable a species to spread do not recognize property lines. Some spread more rapidly than others and your neighbors may be unhappy when they have to battle an invasive courtesy of uninformed planting practices but the real damage is done when those seeds reach a woodland or other natural area.
Often there is no one on duty at the border to recognize the problem and so be able to defend the integrity of a special place.
Not only ecological disasters can result but economic ones also. If your neighbor has a woodlot from which he wants to harvest timber or medicinal plants for income, the competition for light and nutrients from NNIS may greatly affect his plan. In fact, it is estimated that NNIS costs the United States about $137 billion (yes - with a b!) each year.
The impact of Emerald Ash Borer or Asian Long Horned Beetle may be more visible because of fast disappearance of trees but the impact of invasive competitors on trilliums or Virginia bluebells can be of equal effect. The loss of food sources and habitat for native wildlife added to the billions of dollars gardeners, land mangers and farms pay to buy and apply the herbicides needed to control the invaders add up. And such a waste of energy - fossil fuel and personal - necessary to remove them. And all because we wanted to grow something different.
How to help
If you are interested in helping in restoration projects and learning more about NNIS call 373-3372 to find out what projects are in need of your assistance.
For more information
www.oipc.info (Ohio Invasive Plant Council)
http://weblogs.nal.usda.gov/invasivespecies/archives/2009/02/mistaken_identi.shtml (excellent - Mistaken Identity)
No one would plant tree-of-heaven, garlic mustard or Japanese knotweed but they do, unfortunately, select purple loosestrife, burning bush, wintercreeper and more.
Our gardens should inspire us to do what we can for the planet whether it is a rain garden to help handle stormwater or a garden to provide for the needs of insects whether butterflies or native bees. There is so much to learn and so much satisfaction to be gained from gardening with a goal.
You may check out how to certify your yard as Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. It will inform your neighbors who may want to follow suit. Just go to NWF website.
This is NNIS Awareness week - it behooves us all to be aware that our personal decisions can and do make a difference.
Marilyn Ortt of 701 Colegate Drive, Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.