U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service reminds gardeners to think native

Times Observer Photo provided by USDA Forest Service, Amy J. Lesher A monarch butterfly perches on a brightly yellow-colored native black-eyed susan flower.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service encourages those in the public who will be planting in the near future to consider planting native species in their gardens. Incorporating native wildflowers, shrubs, trees, vines and various grasses into landscaping helps a diversity of wildlife, and provides benefits to the surrounding soil, water and air quality.

According to a recent news release from the Forest Service, when gardening it is important to plant native species, as it helps in supporting a more healthy, robust wildlife. To explore a full list of native plant species in the region, search the Forest Service’s plant database by visiting https://plants.usda.gov/home.

Non-native invasive plants are species living outside their natural ecosystem, likely to cause harm to the economy, environment or human health, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Invasive plants which have been brought into areas either by accident or on purpose are often referred to as exotic, alien or non-native. These plants cause the displacement of native species by depriving them of vital nutrients. Additionally, non-native plants also lack the nutritional value native animals need to thrive.

For example, birds such as the Cedar Waxwing and Northern Flicker have experienced the change of colors in their feathers from eating non-native plants they encounter. This color change may seem slight and non-important, however it can make birds less likely to breed, which could lead to a dwindling population.

To learn more about the impact of non-native plants on the Northern Flicker, visit www.audubon.org/news/mystery-solved-invasive-berries-blame-turning-flickers-feathers-pink

Some of the more surprising non-native species to pop up in the Allegheny National Forest, according to Allegheny National Forest’s (ANF) Non-native Invasive Program Manager April Moore, are ornamentals.

“I think the most surprising plants that are non-native and invasive are ones like Chinese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and Japanese spiraea (Spiraea japonica),” said Moore.

Non-native plants, such as ornamentals may be a tad easier to spot — simply because they look a tad bit out of place with the surrounding woodscape and plantlife. Compared to their more commonly spotted counterparts, which some in the area may be so used to seeing, they now mistakenly consider these plants to be native. Commonly spotted non-native plants in the ANF, according to Moore, include “glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), non-native bush honeysuckles — Morrow’s, and Tartarian.”

The Forest Service reminded residents that as “green begins to return to the landscape, be aware that several plants that are first to grow are non-native invasive species.”

Some examples of common invasive species in the region include bush honeysuckles, multiflora rose, privet, Bradford pear, Norway maple and barberry.

For those who have encountered invasive species, learn how to report it by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website at https://prdagriculture.pwpca.pa.gov/.


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