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Avoid Invasive Plants Says New Jersey

Some emerging invasive plants - those which have no natural predators and grow out of control, killing off native species - in New Jersey include the Japanese angelica tree and Siebold's viburnum. They may not seem menacing, and are in some cases deceptively beautiful, but don't be fooled - they can do plenty of environmental damage.

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That is the message of the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team, which is urging gardeners to avoid introducing invasive plants into the landscape.

As the cherry blossoms pop and growers prepare to get their hands dirty, the strike team is telling people to abstain from using bamboo, Chinese wisteria, Chinese silver grass and other foreign, invasive plants in their yards, since those plants have no natural predators and threaten to eliminate their native counterparts.

There are about 115 invasive plant species growing across the state. Many of them are being sold at garden centers, then finding their way into residential yards through the landscaping industry, said Melissa Almendinger, executive director of the strike team.

But when those plants spread into wild, wooded areas, they act as colonizers, slaying native plants and thereby cutting off the food, shelter and breeding sites of the insects and animals that rely on those plants, said Almendinger of Hillsborough.

''You are impacting the entire ecosystem,'' she said. ''The whole life web is going to be affected by this one species that comes in and dominates the habitat.''

Compounding the problem, herbivorous insects and animals ignore the invasive species, preferring to nosh on native plant life, making the challenge to those species' survival even greater, said Almendinger, whose ''strike team'' has had more than 300 volunteers since it was established about three years ago.

The organization, a cooperative effort among parks agencies at all levels of government plus other organizations, attempts to eliminate those invasive species that are considered to be emerging threats.

There are about 30 invasive plants that are too widespread and established, and are ''difficult or impossible to control,'' said Almendinger. But there are about 80 looming threats that humans can still contain, and the team tries to nip those plants in the bud.

''It is easier to get rid of five than 500,'' she said.

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June 15, 2019, 10:33 pm PDT

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