Water Quality and Invasive Plants

In the fall of 2011, a biology class at Hiram College performed community service in various gardens around campus. Our group removed invasive plants from a garden behind Bonney Castle while learning about the connection between invasive species and water quality. What is an invasive species? As per Executive Order 13112 an "invasive species" is defined as a species that is: 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. (from the National Invasive Species Information Center website maintained by the US Department of Agriculture) These species may be aesthetically pleasing, but they can cause a lot of damage to formerly pristine natural areas. They are known to choke out and outcompete native species. Invasive Species In the Garden: The vines were removed by hand, pulled off the otherwise healthy plants (such as Lilacs) and cut with clippers. Some of the vines were too deeply embedded in the trunks of the lilacs or were too tangled or too high to reach without a ladder, so those vines were simply cut and left to dry out. The Bishop's Weed was left in place, due to its nature of being extremely hard to remove. Pulling the weed would have only left it to grow back again in the spring. It will have to be taken care of with a broadleaf herbicide in order to control it, which will need to sprayed at specific point in the plan't life cycle in order to ensure that it will be effectively and completely destroyed by the chemical. Bishop's Weed (photo courtesy of hillshepherd.blogspot.com) Weed Control and Water Quality Due to the extreme invasive nature of Bishop's Weed and its inability to be effectively controlled by anything besides a chemical herbicide, a more water-friendly solution is not readily or effectively available at this time. A high percentage of any applied herbicide ends up not clinging to the plant it's supposed to be killing, but rinsing off with rain and running off and absorbing into the soil, where it is likely to get into the groundwater and/or drinking water. The chemical makeup of these herbicides is toxic not just to plants but to humans as well if it is inhaled, absorbed, or drunk. To avoid such dangers, homeowners and gardeners should be vigilant about what they plant and perform research before bringing a new plant into their environment, no matter how eye-pleasing it may be. Before: After: