More Bad News About Non-native Plants from the EEC

Our thanks to Ann Farnham of the Ewing Environmental Commission for sharing this article with us about our continued use of non-native plants in the landscape.

We continue to hammer away on the disadvantages of using non-native plants. Remember, a good definition of a native plant is one that existed in any specific region before the European settlement in this country. Ewing is in the Mid-Atlantic region and our natives are well adapted to our particular soils, precipitation, temperatures, elevations and exposures. Our native wildlife – insects, mammals, birds, reptiles – developed along with them.

Many people believe that if a plant is sold at a local nursery or garden center that it is all right to use. Unfortunately, that is not correct. Because we have no laws or ordinances that prohibit the sale of introduced or invasive plants (some states do), they are widely available. What we can do at this point is to be informed and avoid buying them.

What are some of the popular, non-native plants sold in local nurseries and garden centers?

In March, 2016 we wrote about Bradford Callery Pear, (Pyrus calleryana); In June, 2016 it was Acer platanoides, Norway Maple; in July, 2016, we wrote about Burning Bush, (Euonymus alatus); and in August, 2016, Winter Creeper, (Euonymus fortunei).  Unfortunately, these are all available at local nurseries and garden centers. A few more garden center boarders – invasives and aggressors – are listed below; most, having few natural predators, form un-challenged thickets at the expense of our native plants.

  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii): This vigorous, nectar-producing butterfly attractor is an attractive shrub with fragrant, colored flower spikes, It self-seeds prolifically, however, and before long your planting bed will be overcome with a Buddleia thicket which crowds out everything else. It is classified as noxious weed in Oregon and Washington.
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix): This popular and sometimes very lovely vine easily goes astray, spreading throughout woody areas and gardens, choking out other vegetation. English ivy kills trees and shrubs by smothering them.
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica): This is not a bamboo, in spite of its popular common name. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially to Cedar Waxwings, cats and grazing animals, resulting in many deaths. Heavenly Bamboo crowds out other plants with prolific seeds and underground stems.
  • Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) : This shrub is banned in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. It displaces native plants with prolific, bird-dispersed seeds, and harbors ticks (due to the high humidity in its dense foliage) mice, and, as a result, lyme disease.
  • Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica): this plant harbors many insects and diseases but still outcompetes and replaces native plants. Its seeds, dispersed by birds, form dense thickets which are very tolerant to many conditions. It impedes the germination of native seeds.
  • Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda): This very adaptable vine shades out other plants and girdles trees and shrubs as it climbs, cutting off nutrients by choking the trunks and producing dense shade.
  • Maiden Grass/Chinese Silver Grass Miscanthus sinensis: More than 50 ornamental varieties of this grass are sold in the United States. The wind-dispersed, viable seed forms thickets which are very adaptable to many conditions, choking out native plants. This is a very popular ornamental grass which is popular to use in a lot of landscaping.
  • Periwinkle Vinca minor: ( not V. major).This groundcover forms dense, extensive mats, choking out other plants. It harbors blights and is allelopathic, meaning that its chemical compounds inhibit the growth of nearby plants.               
  • Privet (Ligustrum sp):  This popular hedge plant is toxic to pets and mildly toxic to humans. Thousands of fruits outcompete and replace natives. The seeds, dispersed by birds, form  very dense thickets. Compounds in the leaves protect the plant from feeding insects, so it is “trouble free” for the hedge-growing home owner.

For more important information about non-native plants, read Plant Invaders of Mid Atlantic Natural Areas by Swearingen, Reshetiloff, Slattery, and Zwicker

Go to www.MAIPC, the Mid Atlantic Invasive Plant Council for additional plant lists.

Native plant alternatives to exotics can be found in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants. In addition, be sure to visit the web sites:

  • The Native Plant Society of New Jersey for their
    • Tree recommendations for planting (both large and small)
    • Wild and Native Plants of NJ
    • Trees and Tall Shrubs by County
    • Invasive Species list
    • Wildflowers and Garden Conditions
    • link to the USDA database and
    • Plants by county.

Help save NJ’s Native Plant Species and Wildlife!

Urge your State Legislator to Support the “DOT Native Plants Bill”

The Ewing Green Team encourages you to contact your local representatives in the State Legislature to urge them to support this important native plants legislation.

S-2004 /A-3305

If enacted, this bill will require the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the NJ Turnpike Authority (which includes the Garden State Parkway), and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to use ONLY NATIVE PLANTS for landscaping, land management, reforestation, or habitat restoration on the 2,800 miles highways they manage in New Jersey.

Please contact your state senator and assembly representative to insure that they know how important native plants and the wildlife that they support are to our environment.  Passage of this legislation will help preserve water quality, provide food and habitat for NJ wildlife and preserve New Jersey’s natural beauty and local character for future generations.

This bill was written for Save Barnegat Bay by Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen David Wolfe and Greg McGuckin. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Senator Kip Bateman are co-sponsors.

To Contact Your Representatives:

Ewing is in District 15, (Hunterdon and Mercer) which includes East Amwell, Ewing, Hopewell Borough (Mercer), Hopewell Township (Mercer), Lambertville, Lawrence (Mercer), Pennington, Trenton, West Amwell, and West Windsor

Legislators for District  15

Senate – Shirley Turner – Email at senturner@njleg.org
Assembly – Reed Gusciora – Email at AsmGusciora@njleg.org
Assembly – Bonnie Watson Coleman – Email at AswWatsonColeman@njleg.org

New Environmental Insights Program to Be Held on June 10th

How to Design and Implement a Rain Garden in Your Landscape

Become Water Wise and Protect Our Native Species

If you can only do one thing for the environment this season we suggest reducing some of our vast suburban monoculture by removing some of your lawn and planting a garden. If you plant a rain garden near a downspout to intercept roof runoff  and filled with native plants; even better.   It will help to slow the flood of storm water, reduce erosion, and absorb pollutants.  The birds, bees and butterflies will also repay your hard work by appearing regularly and pollinating your landscape.  And then enjoy the fun of watching wildlife up close!

What Are Rain Gardens?

Rain gardens are plantings that are specifically designed to soak up rain water from roofs, from driveways, parking lots, and lawns. When it rains, the rain garden fills with a few inches of water and allows the water to slowly seep into ground filtering out pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides, and oil, rather than having it run into the waterways or storm drains. This purifies the water and lets it replenish the aquifer rather than having it flow unfiltered into streams, lakes or the ocean. The ground should not remain wet, but should dry in a day or so of fair weather. It is planted with native shrubs and flowers that can tolerate wet or dry conditions and add to the beauty of the neighborhood and attract wildlife.

Rain Gardens not only beautify your landscape, but also serve practical environmental purposes. Their interception of water runoff from impervious surfaces provides a number of benefits for your landscape. It acts to minimize the volume and improve the quality of water entering conventional storm drains and nearby streams. It also works to minimize soil erosion. It helps you provide a habitat for wildlife which can be sorely lacking in home gardens. And finally, the volume and quality of water is better whether it is absorbed in or leaves a rain garden.

Lindsay Blanton, our 2013/2014 AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador at NJDEP, will present using training materials created by Rutgers University.  She will teach the basic steps to building and maintaining this simple, proven and inexpensive solution to the problem of storm water pollution.

Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Hollowbrook Community Center, Nutrition Room, 320 Hollowbrook Dr, Ewing Township, NJ 08638
Cost:  Free and Open to the Public