Some very familiar garden plants are invasive, meaning that they can escape your yard to damage natural areas. “What’s not apparently problematic in your yard can cause real problems in natural ecosystems,” says Kurt Dreisilker, manager of natural areas for the Arboretum.
An invasive plant is one that reproduces so prolifically that it overwhelms native plants and damages a natural ecosystem by breaking the food chain on which insects, birds and other animals depend, he explains. Most invasive plants are non-native species, imported through agriculture or horticulture, that can reproduce freely because they left their natural enemies behind in places such as Asia or Europe.
Barberry, honeysuckle, privet, and burning bush are familiar examples. They all have berries that birds can eat in gardens and carry far away to natural areas. Your barberry shrubs may seem benign, but there are places in the region’s forest preserves where barberry carpets the forest floor so little else can grow.
May is Invasive Species Awareness Month. So as you plan your garden and stroll the garden center, be careful you don’t bring home something that can cause problems far and wide.