There is perhaps a tendency to mistakenly think of plants as being “rooted in place”. However, their ever increasing ability to travel through direct and indirect human assistance to new habitats both near and far can be a blessing or a curse...depending upon just how successful they are in relocating and the resulting threat that success creates in displacing natural vegetation.
A plant that succeeds at the expense of natural or cultivated vegetation soon becomes identified as an “Invasive Species”. Invasive species are plants that are alien to their new habitat and have biological characteristics such as strong root and reproductive systems and vigorous growth habit that allow them to out- compete and eventually threaten the viability of native or cultivated plants. This can result in reduced biodiversity and alteration of natural habitats that then impact negatively on both native flora and fauna. Native species can be deemed invasive if changing environmental circumstances allow them to overtake other native species within their habitat such as the case with the Manitoba maple which in many areas of Canada is now considered an undesirable “weed tree”.
Invasive species tend to be most problematic in areas that have been “disturbed” through human activity. They become very difficult to control or eradicate through natural means and when the threat to native plant and animal populations, successful cultivation of cash crops or human enjoyment of natural areas is heightened, they become the focus of programs aimed at eradication or at least limiting their spread to other areas.
It is the responsibility of all gardeners to be aware of the “invasive status” of any plant they bring into their gardens and to ensure they do not inadvertently contribute to increasing the level of threat these invasive species bring to the health of our natural species and habitats.
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