Maine, like so many other states, is trying to deal with what has come to be known as “the invasives.” An invasive is a plant, animal or fish that is not native to a state, as far as we know. As a general rule, invasives are not good, and they take more than they give to our state eco-system.

Although the illegal bucket-stocking of non-native fish species in our lakes and ponds gets most of the press, invasive plants have become an environmental concern throughout New England. Most of us have heard about the dreaded milfoil that can proliferate in warm water ponds and make a mess, but, when it comes to non-native flora, milfoil is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before your eyes glaze over, think about this: The health of our wildlife is inextricably connected to the condition of the habitat. The habitat is the sum total of the trees, plants and grasses that provide nutrition for our wildlife. If non-edible or non-nutritious invasive plants proliferate and crowd out native plants that historically support wildlife, we have a problem. This is happening more in some New England states than others.

The Massachusetts Division of Wildlife has just released an informative new book titled ” A Guide to Invasive Plants in Massachusetts.” With the help of the New England Wildlflower Society and the Nature Conservancy, this book was published to help folks better understand invasive plants. This guide identifies and provides color photographs of 66 plant species that are non-native. According to the book, these species pose a threat to wildlife habitat, and to “the native biodiversity of Massachusetts.”

How do they get here?

Modes of transportation vary, but many of these exotic plants get here by man via vehicles or boats, or are introduced by deliberate garden plantings. Nature itself brings non-native plants from other states via wind, water and wildlife. What’s interesting is that some of the plants we call native were once brought here as non-natives by natural occurrences. This natural plant movement has been going on since the glaciers receded over 10,000 years ago. The trouble is that man’s trifling with the natural order has brought invasive species here at an accelerated rate.

Here are some examples:

1.The Norway Maple, which is a popular street tree, has proliferated in the wild. It dominates the habitat and will drive out Sugar Maples and American Beech.

2. Japanese Barberry. This is another invasive that tends to dominate. Although whitetail deer thrive on a highly varied diet, they will not eat this berry, and it will drive out other mainstay plants that deer thrive on..

3. The Autumn Olive was brought here from Korea. It is a prodigious fruit bearer that will generate an incredible 80 pounds of berries per shrub. They are bad to the extent that they crowd out other wild berry plants. The upside is that grouse apparently like them, for I have found lots of game birds where I have found this particular non-native berry.

4. Somewhat more well known than the aforementioned plants, Purple Loosestrife is that attractive purple weed you find growing along interstates and among native cat tails in marshy areas. It is, like the others, a highly prolific wetland perennial that will in time crowd out and destroy the native cat tails. That’s bad because cat tails are ideal nesting areas for waterfowl and other wildlife.

My wife, Diane, unknowingly transplanted some Purple Loosestrife in her perennial bed. Of course, I set her straight, but not without some “expert testimony” from a more reliable source.

Incidentally, this book contains a highly informative section about various types of milfoil along with some excellent photos.

If you would like to learn more about invasive trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, grasses and aquatics, I suggest that you check out the web site of the New England Wildflower Society. Their address is www.newfs.org. You might be able to secure a copy of this book by contacting Ellie Horwitz at Mass. Fish and Wildlife. Her work telephone number is 508 792-7270 ext. 105. Her e-mail address is: [email protected] Notice that I said “might” be able to secure a copy. Unfortunately, Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife has no plans to market this neat little book.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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