An invasive species is an aggressive non-native species that takes over the habitat of species formerly growing or living in an area. Invasive species are either plants or animals that cause both ecological and economic damage. Invasive species management is necessary to keep them in check.
At Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC), when we refer to invasive species, we are mostly dealing with invasive plant species. Invasive plants are frequently plants that were intentionally introduced by humans. In some cases, immigrants brought plants with them to have a touch of home in their new surroundings. In other cases, a species might have been brought due to a perceived horticultural value. When these plants are introduced, they are often able to out-compete native species. Some aggressive native plants can cause similar problems.
Some Common Invasive Species at LREC, Where They Live, and Their Control Methods
|When NOT to Compost
In general, we compost or mulch all of our plant waste. However, it is unwise to compost seed heads (even unripe ones) of invasive species since these seeds may sprout and spread the invasive species to new habitats
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)—This perennial shrub from Asia is found in our woodlands and was introduced for landscaping. Many people and businesses continue to plant this species on their property. To control, we cut the plants close to the ground and paint the open cut with herbicide.
Bush honeysuckle (Lonicera mackii)—This perennial shrub from Eurasia grows throughout the woodlands. We control this species by cutting large plants close to the ground and painting the stumps with herbicide. Seedlings that sprout in areas that have been cleared of honeysuckle may by pulled by hand or dug out with a shovel or mattocks. See our Invasive Species Research page for more details on treating honeysuckle with herbicide.
Curly dock (Rumex crispus)—This perennial forb, originally from Europe, is found in the prairies. We cut the plants close to the ground and paint the open cut with herbicide. If seed heads have already developed, we bag the seed heads and dispose of them in the trash.
Foxtail (Settaria spp.)—This annual grass from Eurasia invades prairie edges and new plantings. We mow or cut this species and bag its seed heads.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)—This biennial forb from Europe aggressively invades creek banks and woodlands. We burn, hand pull, or spray herbicide on leaves of this species. Any flowering stalks or seed heads are removed and disposed of.
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)—This perennial woody vine from Japan strangles trees in the woodland by winding tightly around them. We manage this species by cutting and painting it with herbicide or by spraying it with herbicide in the fall.
Japanese hops (Humulus japonicus)—This perennial herbaceous vine from Japan aggressively invades sunny areas along the creek and in the prairie. We pull this species by hand when it is small or in isolated patches. When found in dense patches where few non-target species grow, we spray this species with herbicide.
Johnson grass (Sorghum halipense)—This perennial grass of Mediterranean origin is found on our streambanks. We spray herbicide on the foliage or dig up and dispose of the plants.
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)—This perennial forb from Eurasia takes over creek banks in the late winter and early spring. It spreads by underground corms or bulbils that break off and move down streams. We control it by spraying the leaves with herbicide on warm days.
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)—This perennial shrub from Asia was introduced as a natural hedge for pastures. It is found in the margins of several habitats. To manage this species, we cut the plants near the ground and paint the stumps with herbicide.
Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)—This perennial forb was introduced from eastern Asia. Though populations at LREC are limited to two small patches, they require regular attention as the seed can survive for up to 20 years in the soil. Plants are cut to the ground and painted with herbicide. Any flowers or seed heads must be bagged and disposed of.
Sweet autumn virginsbower (Clematis terniflora)—This perennial vine from Asia was introduced for horticultural use and is still available for purchase today. It is often found climbing trees in woodland edges. We manage it by cutting near the ground and painting the stump with herbicide or by digging up the entire plant.
Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)—This fast-growing tree introduced from China was brought to the U.S. before 1800 for its horticultural value. We have had two adult trees removed and treated the stumps with herbicide. We are treating the seedlings by digging them up, cutting and painting, or spraying with herbicide.
Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)—This perennial woody evergreen vine from Asia is commonly used as a groundcover in landscaping. This species covers over 50% of our 14 acres of woodland. It lives in the herbaceous layer and climbs up many of the trees in the woodland. This plant will only go to seed when it is climbing, so we try to remove the climbing vines, even when we are not treating the ground layer. We burn, hand pull, spray herbicide, or cut plants and paint the stumps with herbicide. See our Invasive Species Research page for more details on methods to remove wintercreeper.
Some Invasive Species Not Currently Found at LREC That We Are Watching For
Crown vetch (Coronilla varia)—This perennial forb is from Eurasia and Africa, and had been spotted in the prairies. It has not been identified on site in recent years.
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum)—This perennial forb from Asia had been found in the area near our brush pile. The population was treated with herbicide and has not been seen for several years.
Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)—This annual grass from Asia has not been found at LREC, but is known to be in St. Louis County. It readily invades floodplain woodlands.
Kudzu (Pueraria montana)—This perennial, semi-woody vine from Asia was introduced for horticultural uses and for erosion control. It is a very fast-growing plant.
Links (links below will open in a new window):
Invasive Species (http://www.invasive.org/)
Invasive Species (http://www.invasivespecies.gov/)
The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Initiative (http://www.nature.org/initiatives/invasivespecies/)
Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (http://www.eddmaps.org/)
National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (http://www.necis.net/)
USDA Plants Database (http://plants.usda.gov/index.html)
Missouri Exotic Pest Plants (http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/mepp/welcome.shtml)
Missouri Vegetation Management Manual (http://mdc.mo.gov/landwater-care/plant-management/invasive-plant-management)