It’s hard to be an invasive plant killer because they can be so pretty, dammit. After all, that’s why humans were attracted to them and brought them into areas where they weren’t native in the first place.
Take multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora, pictured above), for example. In the summer, its pretty white blossoms fill the air with their rosy scent. And in the fall and early winter, you get these pretty little red berries that brighten up the yard.
Now, I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable gardener who understands and favors the principle of natural biodiversity. I understand that plants like multiflora rose, Norway maple (Acer plantanoides), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus, below) are wreaking havoc on the natural biodiversity of many areas, forcing out natives and changing wildlife patterns. But, my yard is full of them and they’re all I have. If I got rid of them all, I would be looking at a pretty bleak and desolate landscape.
In a workshop I recently attended, we took a field trip to a fairly small (less than an acre) riverside restoration site that was previously covered in Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, a horrible invasive plant here in New England). The organization had gotten a grant, removed the knotweed, developed a natural habit restoration plan, reseeded the area with a conservation mix of natural grasses and wildflowers, and planted several native trees.
It cost about $20K to do this. The restored area was beautiful in a wild way, but the adjoining landowner was complaining that it was too messy. (They were expecting maybe a golf course?) One of the women in my class made the comment, I get why biodiversity is important and and why monocultures are bad, but isn’t that an awful lot of money to spend on getting rid of an invasive and bringing a small area back to it’s natural state?
This argument is very easy to understand, even more so when the invasive plant has appealing features…such as the pretty berries of multiflora rose or bittersweet, or the bright red leaves of burning bush (Euonymus alatus).
(Side note: it’s even more difficult to make the anti-invasive plant argument to someone who has bought one of these invasive plants at an established nursery…it’s beyond me why nurseries–good ones, not just big box nurseries– sell invasive plants like euonymus. Yet you see them for sale all the time. They should be ashamed.)
This is why it’s so hard to be a native plant snob, in my opinion. I can see all the logical reasons for removing invasive species and promoting and planting native ones. But….come take a look at my yard and you’ll see I don’t practice what I preach. When invasive plants are all you have and you can’t spend $20K to replace them, well….you often end up keeping them.