Cytisus Scoparius Common Broom Scotch Broom

Editorial: Invasive plants are a big deal

Why spend money trying to keep back the tide?

Any time we do a story about invasive plant species there are always some who respond to us wondering if it’s really a big deal or just blown out of proportion.

Things like broom are pretty, they argue, providing a pop of colour in ditches and on roadsides. It’s all just scrub anyway, right? Why spend money trying to keep back the tide?

And aren’t most of the plants in our gardens originally from somewhere else? We plant everything from lilacs to roses, lettuce to carrots that aren’t native to our shores. What makes these plants OK, while others are disdained and rooted out?

Aside from the truism that a weed is just something that’s growing where you don’t want it, it’s the invasive and sometimes even dangerous nature of the blacklisted plants that make them so unpopular.

Invasive species, plants or otherwise, are a big deal. Here’s why. Invasives are classified as such because they are so prolific that they endanger native plants. Invasives can wipe out species critical to keeping our ecosystems in balance and healthy. They often do not have the natural enemies in their transplanted environment to keep them in check.

Think the choking quality of the parrotfeather milfoil that is rapidly making impassible sections of Somenos Creek.

Scotch broom becomes a huge fire hazard as it dries out in the summer and crowds out woodland, grassland and rock natives.

Then there’s tansy ragwort that can take over grazing land and is toxic to livestock. Or the example in today’s paper of the giant hogweed, the sap of which can cause serious skin burns.

These are more than just unwanted guests.

It seems unlikely that we’ll ever be totally rid of some of these noxious invaders, like broom, but it’s definitely worth trying to keep their numbers from proliferating any further, and hopefully make some inroads in reclaiming lost territory.

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