Invasives

Seed dispersal with gusto

Some plants passively count on wind, creatures, or water for seed dispersal. Other plants attack seed dispersal with gusto, creating a type of seed pod firework display.

The video below shows seed dispersal with gusto, a process I’ve observed this many times in my Connecticut gardens.

Unfortunately, the video only refers to the plants by common name – violets, touch-me-nots, squirting cucumbers. Searching for information using only common plant names can lead to confusion as common names may vary from gardener to gardener and region to region. For anyone looking to add featured plants to their garden, the addition of botanical names would have been helpful.

In Connecticut, touch-me-nots are also called jewelweed. The Connecticut Botanical Society (CBS) lists two native species: jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not is Impatiens capensis, while pale touch-me-not or pale jewelweed is Impatiens pallida.

white violets

white violets-a CT native using seed dispersal with gusto

CBS also lists many species of violets, most in the Viola family such as the common blue violet (Viola sororia) and small white or northern white violet (Viola pallens). By contrast, CBS does not list poisonous-when-ingested squirting cucumbers (Ecballium elaterium), native to Mediterranean regions.

Seed dispersal with gusto is a fun phenomenon for desired plants. In my landscape, common blue violets add interest and color to the lawn, where I encourage their spread, and where they attract some of the earliest emerging pollinators. But the same blue violets require annual control in perennial beds to prevent them from taking over.

Two of Connecticut’s weedy invasives hairy bitter-cress (Cardamine hirsuta) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) need only a slight touch to blast mature seeds in all directions, making them formidable weed pests. Hairy bitter-cress blooms during very early spring going from flower to mature seed in just a few days, and re-blooms late-summer to fall from these broadcast seeds. If not caught before narrow seed pods dry, plant removal is impossible without spreading seeds. Garlic mustard is similarly robust in seed dispersal.

Informed gardeners can use seed dispersal knowledge to their advantage by allowing desired perennials to go to seed, or preventing unwanted weeds or perennials from doing the same.

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Invasives can sneak into any garden

Three of the most prolific invasive plants in Connecticut – Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose – can sneak into any garden, making it very important to learn how to identify and manage them.

Learn to identify Connecticut’s invasives by studying the information at the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group, seeking the advice of gardener or garden coach experienced in identifying the most prolific garden invasives in your area, and/or taking small samples to a trusted, local garden center for identification.

During this time of year, when invasive shrubs and vines are leafing out, I search for young Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose sprouting in and around bird-popular shrubs and trees. Birds eat the berries produced by more mature specimens of these invasives growing on neighboring properties, then spread undigested seeds via droppings. So … just below where birds like to roost is a good place to watch for emerging invasives.

What I found this week under a bird-popular winterberry shrub growing at the edge of our driveway is a perfect example.

Invasive Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose sprouted under a winterberry shrub

Invasive Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose sprouted under a winterberry shrub

You might not expect this to be the scene of an invasion … but it was. Among young winterberry shoots, different types of sedum, violets, an iris, ornamental grasses, and a dandelion grew three very unwanted plants.

The young Japanese barberry caught my eye first.

Young Japanese barberry

Young Japanese barberry

Then a closer look revealed a multiflora rose and young Oriental bittersweet shoots.

Young Oriental bittersweet and multiflora rose

Young Oriental bittersweet and multiflora rose

Without a keen eye and knowing what is what, it’s easy to pass over the bittersweet as emerging winterberry shoots, but closer examination reveals the difference in the leaves.

Now that I’ve found the three invasives growing under this winterberry, I will recheck the area throughout the growing season to be sure no other bird-dropped seeds have sprouted.

Once one becomes adept in how these three young invasives look, finding them becomes easier. Familiarize yourself with the look of young Japanese barberry; note the thorny stems. Moreover, the interior roots are yellow-green.

Young Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose pulled  and left to dry and die.

Young Japanese barberry, Oriental bittersweet, and multiflora rose pulled and left to dry and die.

The multiflora rose has a typical-looking rose leaf and the stems sport classic rose thorns.

Oriental bittersweet can be sneaky, but once you familiarize yourself with the various stages of growth, you’ll become quite adept at -spotting this invasive vine. Leaves on young vines are light green, the stems – with leaves at the very end – usually stand straight up reaching toward the light and the roots are orange.

Do not put these plants in the compost pile. Leave them on a hot surface to dry and die before disposing of them in the trash.

By finding these three invasives early, you can usually pull them out of the ground with roots intact. Once they become larger it becomes more difficult to get all the roots out of the ground, which allows re-sprouting. Still, any location where one of these young invasives has been found and pulled must be re-visited through the growing season to check for re-growth which, of course, requires re-pulling and continued re-checking.

Why bother with all this? All three are highly invasive and crowd out other, often native, vegetation. Japanese barberry is particularly noxious and creates a perfect habitat for disease-bearing ticks. Oriental bittersweet is a vine that will wind around and smother anything. Multiflora rose is thorny and not the nicest looking rose,  grows quickly, and crowds out other vegetation. Plus, these invasives are much easier to eradicate when young, with small root systems. Once any of the three become established they are a whole lot more difficult to eradicate.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Joene Hendry