Four Reasons Why Greenbelt Land Trust has it in for Invasive Species
Greenbelt Land Trust owns two Nature Preserves. Although lovely, neither are what you might call “pristine and unspoiled”. The main problem? Invasive species.
These are plants (in this case) that are native to other ecosystems, perhaps to other continents, that have been introduced into the local ecosystem and have run rampant. The most troublesome in Greenbelt Preserves are bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper. Both of these are lovely plants, and can be useful in a garden or landscaped setting. So, what’s the problem? Here are four.
- They suppress the local native flora. Honeysuckle creates a solid shrub understory that leafs out early in the spring, before the trees come out. Unfortunately, that is exactly when Missouri’s abundant woodland wildflowers leaf out, in a strategy to capture sunlight before the tree canopy cuts it off. Honeysuckle defeats that strategy, easily outcompetes the low-growing wildflowers and, over time, causes them to die out. Wintercreeper spreads across the woodland floor like a shag carpet run amok from the 70’s, easily outcompeting the locals.
- They decrease biodiversity. As the woodland ground flora is impoverished by the monoculture of honeysuckle or wintercreeper (or both!), the entire system of pollinators, other insects, birds and browsers declines.
- Honeysuckle creates inappropriate nesting structures. Honeysuckle branches are found low on the trunk, encouraging native birds to nest near the ground in the crooks of the branches, where they are more vulnerable to predators like raccoons and opossums. Branches on native shrubs and understory trees, like blackhaw, redbud and dogwood, are found much higher on the trunk.
- They rob us of a “sense of place.” A landscape of wintercreeper and honeysuckle is pretty and green, similar to the entrance of a country club or a shopping mall. Nothing wrong with that – but you could be anywhere in the northern hemisphere. We like it here in mid-Missouri, and we want to provide the public with nature preserves that resemble native Missouri ecosystems.