The truth is, invasive plants are not always weeds, but they are almost always detrimental. Invasive plants and weeds can be problematic in their own unique ways, but many people tend to lump them together in the same category.
Invasive plants are defined as foreign plant species that tend to spread quickly, at an out-of-control rate. These days, the “invasive” label tends to be used for plants that were introduced from other regions only to spread like wildfire. This differs from indigenous local plants that spread rapidly in an overpowering manner—experts refer to these types of plants as “aggressive” or “ill-behaved.” In many circumstances, these so-called “aggressive” plants are classified as weeds.
The main reason there is confusion over what qualifies as “invasive” or “aggressive” is because that distinction has not yet become solidified in the language we use to describe the plants. Sumac shrubs are often described by American gardeners as being “invasive,” for example, even though they are native to North America and therefore cannot technically be considered invasive. Therefore, they would more properly be labeled as “aggressive.”
What Makes Invasive Plants Spread The Way They Do?
The tendency of invasive plants to spread in the manner they do could be partially due to a lack of the same insects, diseases and pests that would have kept them under control in their native areas. This means when introduced into a new environment free of these controls, the plants have a “free rein” to spread where they will.
In addition, invasive plants can spread farther and faster when they have extensive underground root-like networks of rhizomes. These rhizomes make attempting to get rid of the plants by pulling them up an essentially useless endevor.
As they spread themselves out, these invasive plants crowd out other plants in the area, discouraging the growth of other, native plant species. This is one of the main reasons why environmental experts concern themselves with the spread of invasive plants—when left unchecked, they could ultimately lead to endangerment or extinction of local flora.
“Not All Weeds”
Landscapers are encouraged to act aggressively to remove invasive plants as much as possible. Many people would refer to this activity as “weeding,’ but it is important to note that weeds and invasive plants are not necessarily synonymous with each other. Not all weeds are invasive, and not all invasive’s look like weeds.
In addition, just because a plant is considered in one territory or state does not mean it is invasive in another part of the continent. Conditions vary widely in Canada and the United States, and each region has its own sets of indigenous and invasive species.
For more information about how to determine if a plant species is invasive and/or a weed, contact us today at Soil Advocates.