When is a plant “invasive”?
The U.S. federal government defines an “invasive species” as “a species that is non-native or alien to the ecosystem” AND “causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
Folks often confuse the term "invasive" with the term "aggressive" and use the two interchangably, but they are NOT the same. Many plants can be aggressive, even native ones, that will readily spread and takeover an area where they may not be wanted. Nature abhors a vacuum, so where there is a "blank" in the land, nature will try to fill it in. Too often, though, invasive species, win that battle and take over not just the empty spots in lands, forests, prairies, waters, etc, but will out compete and take over natural spaces since the invasive species have no or few natural enemies to keep the invader's population in check / balance with the total environment.
North Central Member, Cherie King explains it like this:
"Please remember that invasive and aggressive are two very different things.
The best way I can explain the difference is this:
A plant is aggressive when it is difficult to keep it in bounds in your own yard. Both native and non-native plants can be aggressive.
Invasive means a plant escapes cultivation and displaces native plants in the natural environment. Invasiveness is something that homeowners are generally completely unaware of, because it doesn't occur on their own property. Plants escape cultivation when birds eat berries, and poop the seeds out elsewhere, when seeds blow on the wind, or are carried by water, or carried on the fur of animals. Invasiveness is determined when non-native species are discovered growing in wild areas, where no one would have planted them. These instances are usually discovered & reported by Forest Rangers, Park Rangers, environmental scientists and the like.
Only non-native species can be invasive. Think of it like this: you can't invade your own country."
Here are the top DIRTY DOZEN TERRESTRIAL INVASIVE SPECIES for the North Central Texas region as identified by TexasInvasives.org, a partnership of multiple agencies, industries and stakeholders who share the common goal of protecting Texas from the threats of invasive species.
These plants have been identified as particularly worrisome terrestrial invasive species in the Cross Timbers and Prairies ecoregion. Click on their scientific names to go to the Invasive Plant Database and learn more. Note this is just the top 12 on the list, so be sure to check out the TexasInvasives.org website for additional information.
Japanese honeysuckle - Lonicera japonica
Glossy privet - Ligustrum lucidum
Chinese privet - Ligustrum sinense
Giant reed - Arundo donax
Chinese wisteria - Wisteria sinensis
Lilac chastetree - Vitex agnus-castus
Brazilian vervain - Verbena brasiliensis
Guineagrass - Urochloa maxima
Common periwinkle - Vinca minor
Chinaberry tree - Melia azedarach
Chinese tallow tree - Triadica sebifera
Johnson grass - Sorghum halepense
Why are NATIVE Plants better than other plants I can buy at the nursery?
Native plants are better because they perform functions that create and complete a healthy ecosystem that non-native plants cannot. Some of the benefits of Native Plants are:
- Native Plants protect the biodiversity of life upon which we all depend.
- Native Plants provide habitat for wildlife.
- Habitat = homes, a place to rest, build a nest, lay low or high to ride out the severe weather
- Habitat = places to find a mate, have a family and raise the next generation of their species
- Habitat = food, directly through leaves, seeds, berries, bark and indirectly through other organisms (aka mostly insects), that thrive on native plants
- Native Plants provide food for wildlife.
- "Wildlife" includes many of the native pollinators that, by the way, provide food for you and me through their pollination services. Native plants and native pollinators co-evolved together over the eons and serve each others needs.
- Of course, native plants also provide food for the wildlife we all really enjoy seeing everyday: birds, butterflies, etc.
- Native plants support many of the insects that we may not pay as much attention to, but those insects are critically important to support the food web for those birds, butterflies, etc.
- Native Plants provide food for you and me.
- Pecan pie anyone? Or how about a dewberry cobbler? How about some pasture raised eggs for breakfast...those eggs came from free range, pasture roaming chickens that ate...you guessed it, native plants, and probably some insects too. Oh, those insects ate native plants too.
- Think about it, everything you eat either is a plant, is something that came from a plant, or is something that ate a plant when you trace it to the origins of the interrelated food chain. Through the developments of modern agriculture, we may not recognize the native plant origins of many of the foods we eat today. Nevertheless, native plants are critical to support all forms of life, including you and me.
- Native plants filter the air from pollution.
- Carbon dioxide in, oxygen out.
- Ok, all plants do this, but think about it, if a native plant is thriving in its tough local environment / growing conditions, whereas a non-native plant is struggling to survive in those same conditions, then it makes sense that a healthy native plant is going to perform these services better.
- Native Plants are suited to their local community, which includes the local native soils. We may curse the difficult (clay, sand, caliche) soil we garden in, but for each soil type, there are native plants that are suited exactly for that spot. Why is this important?
- Native plants' roots are adapted to their local environment conditions including the challenging native soils and help retain the soil from run off. As native plants hold the soils in place during rains, they also help filter out pollution from the storm water runoff.
- Native plants roots systems facilitate rain / surface water returning to the sub soils and, where present, to aquifers that store water underground.
- Deep native plants' root systems allow heavy rainwater to be absorbed into soils rather than overflowing storm drainage systems, thereby providing flood mitigation services.
- Native plants store carbon in their structures and roots and can increase carbon stored in soil.
- Did you know that a native prairie's deep roots can grow down to 15 feet deep and sequester more carbon that some forests?
- Carbon sequestration can be increased in soils to help reduce increased atmospheric carbon that contributes to climate change. How do you take carbon out of the air and store it in the soil? Native plants' leaves take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and carry it through the plant to its deep roots which emit excess carbon the plant did not use to the soil, where it feeds soil organisms that in turn help give soil its structure, water retention capabilities and fertility.
- More Info
- Native plants reduce the heat sink effects of the major metropolitan areas where we live: cities’ buildings and suburban sprawl of more buildings, roads & parking lots.
- Native plants = cleaner drinking water.
- When native plants are correctly placed in their desired growing conditions that mimic their "native place", they require less supplemental water and no fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, which means less surface runoff pollution for those people living downstream from us. If we can convince the communities that are upstream from us to use more native plants, that means less runoff pollution in the drinking water you and I rely on.
- You've heard the catch phrase "We need to drain the swamp!", right? Well, in reality, that swamp is probably a wetland, a low spot meant to hold water (seasonally or year round) and includes native plants that want to grow in wet or damp soils. These critically endangered native plants provide necessary services of literally cleaning the pollution that drains into wetland waterways.
- Learn how humans are mimicking Mother Nature's natural wetlands that include native plants to provide clean drinking water for North Texas citizens.
How do I plant wildflower seeds I received from your booth at a H&G show or other event?
The North Central Chapter purchases native plant seeds from Turner Seeds. Below are links to their info about the species of native plants in the seed mix we purchase and their instructions for planting wildflower seeds.
Click here to see: Wildflower Seed Mix from Turner Seeds
Click here to see: Planting Information
Which products should I AVOID using because they have neonicotinoids that harm pollinators and other wildlife?
Many have us have heard the news that many off the shelf products containing neonicotinoids, are causing great harm to the pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, and other wildlife that rely on insects for food. As members of the Native Plant Society of Texas and with our understanding that Native Plants = Healthy Habitats, we encourage everyone to discontinue use of chemical pesticides since we are trying to provide safe habitat for wildlife and the ecosystem that supports us all. But exactly which products contain these harmful chemicals? Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there is not a national policy for clearly labeling products as containing neonicotinoids, so be wary of all chemical pesticides and avoid their use completely if you can. If you have a real invasion that you feel you must treat for, please consider researching and applying an organic solution, like integrated pest management or others that can be found through internet searches. There are many good ones out there that are much more cost effective and less harmful to you, your pets, and the wildlife that lives in our urban habitats. If you absolutely must use a chemical pesticide, consult the lists that you can click on below (and other more up to date versions may be available on the internet) BEFORE you go to the store, to search for one that does NOT contain neonicotinoids. When you look at a product's label, you want to find the information on the packaging that lists the active ingredients. If you see one of the following names listed, the insecticide includes a neonicotinoid:
These lists show products that contain neonicotinoids, which should be avoided.
Do you have to be a member to attend meetings?
No, membership meetings where we have a guest speaker or activities are open to EVERYONE! Members, guests, friends, or anyone from the public interested in native plants or the topic / activity of the month is welcome to attend! Meetings are on the first Thursday of the month, except January and July.
I have a photo or article I would like to share. Where do I send it?
We welcome your contributions to add photos, announcements, news articles, "How to Grow" info, etc. to both the monthly chapter newsletter and this website. The newsletter editor and website team have a shared email address so that they don't have to pass items back & forth to each other. Please send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that due to the layout of the template we purchased when creating this website, photos that are featured on the opening Home page of the website, need to be a high resolution, so technically speaking their ideal size is at least 2000 pixels wide. We can edit photos that are too large to trim them to size, but photos that are lower resolution are not suitable for the Home page since they start to look too out of focus. We can still use smaller resolution photos in many other places throughout the website. Please send us some new "eye candy" for this website.
Demo Gardens, Parks, Nature Centers
Is photography one of the ways you enjoy native plants? If so, please consider visiting one of our demo gardens or a park with native plants or nature center. We would love to receive your photo contributions of native plant places featuring:
- attractive plant combinations
- individual plants
- close ups of plant features
- wildlife on native plants
- people enjoying the native plants
Which native plants are hosts for caterpillars of Monarch butterflies?
There are several species of Asclepias, commonly known as milkweeds, that are native to the eco-regions which cover the North Central chapter. A few of the most common ones are:
- Asclepias asperula, Antelope horns milkweed
- Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly milkweed or pluerisy root
- Asclepias viridis, Green milkweed
- Funastrum cynanchoides, Milkweed vine
How can I get involved?
As an all volunteer organization, the North Central Chapter can only do what its members do. There are no paid staff to carry out our mission. So pick and choose from the following:
- Attend membership meetings and invite a friend to join us
- Bring an item to membership meetings to donate to the raffle
- Attend Board meetings to be in the know of what is going on
- Participate in gardening days for the demonstration gardens
- Share a photo or write an article for the monthly newsletter
- Talk to any of the Chapter Leaders re: how you can help them
- Let the Vice President know of any topics or speakers you would like to hear at our meetings.
- Talk with the NC President about becoming a chairperson of a committee
- Participate in the City of Fort Worth, Mayor's Monarch Pledge Committee
- Donate native plants to the plant sale
- Volunteer to work at the plant sale
- Assist in set up and hosting of NLCP classes or lead a plant walk for the class
- Become a NICE! representative to a local retail nursery
- Volunteer to engage the public at our information booth at community events.
- Bring a snack to share at meetings
- Post our chapter's activities on public community calendars
- Share our chapter's meetings, events & activities on your social media and with your friends
- Help weave together a network of those concerned about the environment: Share your knowledge about other like minded organizations' events and activities through the newsletter, make an announcement at meetings or tell a Chapter Leader.
- Go on a field trip or native plant / prairie walk and learn at least one new native plant
- If you volunteer at a school garden, promote the inclusion of native plants
- Speak up for native plants to be used in your homeowners association landscape spaces
- Post on the Chapter's Facebook private discussion group
- Share photos that can be posted on the new chapter website.
If we all take a turn to share the load, we can do a lot! Many hands make light work! Start by taking just one item above and do it in the next month.
Where can I buy Native seeds?
Native American Seed is a wonderful source to buy native seeds.
Why do you have a raffle at meetings?
The raffle is used to collect a small amount of money to help cover the costs of the meeting room at the Botanic Gardens and other chapter expenses. A ticket only cost $1 or you can get 6 tickets for $5. The raffle also provides a way for members / attendees to share extra native plants, or gardening items they have. For example, a friend wanted to get rid of a bunch of decorative pots, so I took them to donate for the raffle. You can help support the North Central chapter by bringing an item to donate to the raffle or by buying a raffle ticket.
Where & when do you meet?
Membership meetings are held at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd. Fort Worth. Meetings are on the 1st Thursday of each month, excluding January and July.
6:15 socializing & snacks
6:30 membership meeting, announcements
7:00 guest speaker
How much sun is full sun vs. part sun vs. shade?
With a very hot climate in North Central Texas, many plants that are considered "full sun" by the horticulture industry can tolerate some shade. Here are the general rules of thumb:
- Full Sun is at least 6 hours of full direct sunlight per day
- Part Sun is between 2 and 6 hours of full direct sunlight per day
- Shade is less than 2 hours of full direct sunlight per day.
Dappled shade of mixed sunlight and shade from tree canopies can alter these rules somewhat and it also depends on the particular plant.
Remember to think about the fact that the sun is lower in the horizon in winter and higher in the horizon in summer, so as seasons change during the year, the shadows created by buildings, trees, etc. also change and effect the amount of sun or shade a particular planting area may get.