Plant Bully?

Have you ever thought of plants as bullies?

That idea never crossed my mind.

Until… I heard it suggested by our instructor, Rob Emanuel, at a Tualatin River Watershed Weed Watcher workshop.

The bullies he  referred to are invasive plants.

Why are they a problem?

Put simply… invasives threaten the ability of native ecosystems to thrive.

This collection of plants displayed at the workshop, along with some others,  are the potential future champions of our wooded and riparian areas.

If allowed to go unchecked, they have the ability to stomp out native plants, and bring robust ecosystems to their knees. 

“Invasive species threaten the stability of native plant and animal communities. They get in the way of native plants that do a better job:

  • keeping soil in place and out of rivers,
  • soaking up excess nutrients from fertilizers,
  • providing shade to keep water temperatures cool for fish,
  • providing somewhere for native animals to live, and
  • providing food sources year round for pollinators and native animals.

Additionally, these invasive species and weeds could be hazardous to human health, poisonous to livestock, and reduce the aesthetic and recreation value of public lands.”  Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District

Although the plants sitting on the table look rather innocuous…  the slides Rob shared, coupled with his first-hand accounts of the “bully-power” behind the targeted species, were more than enough to convince those attending the Weed Watcher workshop that elimination of these plant threats is an important task.

One very scary plant-bully example: Giant Hogweed

These photos of Giant Hogweed, taken by Tualatin Riverkeeper Advocacy and Communications Manager, Brian Wegener, illustrate one of the meanest bullies. Originally a native to the Caucasus Mountains and southwest Asia, it was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant. Giant Hogweed jumped the classification of ornamental and is classified as a Class A weed- targeted for eradication or containment.

04-28-15_Weed_Watcher_workshop_14
Photo of slide from Rob Emanuel’s PowerPoint presentation

Not only does this plant choke out beneficial native plants- it is HIGHLY toxic. I highlight Giant Hogweed because the harm photosensitive sap from the plant can cause if humans come in contact with it: devastating skin lesions and burns; sap-related blindness. Parents are especially advised to take note of this plant’s description because children could be attracted to the Giant Hogweed’s size and flower.

This is a not a plant to play with. Click to link to more detailed Giant Hogweed information:

GiantHogweedProfile
Oregon Depart. of Agriculture profile
Oregon Department of Agriculture brochure
Oregon Depart. of Agriculture brochure

 

How to stand up to plant-bullies-

Empower yourself by attending a Weed Watcher Workshop in your area. Workshops like this one are offered in most states, South Africa, and Australia. Google- “Weed Watchers” with your location to find a workshop near you. Learn who the “plant-bullies” are in your ecoregion or watershed, and how to become part of a Rapid Response and Early Detection team. The goal is to stop these botanic bullies before they have a chance to take root and establish permanent residence.

Photo 1 14

If you live in my watershed- the Tualatin River- two more workshops are offered this spring:

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Please click image for more information

May 21- Aloha High School

May 27- Forest Grove Community Auditorium

17 comments

  1. Yes, humans can bring chaos, but nature is stronger. One can’t organize it. It only becomes another disorder which is the order of nature – if you understand, what I mean. 🙂

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    1. What you are saying is probably going to be the ultimate truth in some cases, Tom. It does seem likely that as more organisms are moved from one ecoregion to another and become invasive, control will become impossible.. there, nature will run its course. It’s unfortunate the balance Nature so masterfully engineered will be destroyed or severely damaged. Did I understand your thought?

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      1. Perhaps something like a balance doesn’t exist in nature. Those organisms which are finding the best growing conditions are dominating all others – till these conditions are exausted or they are detached by others. That is the only rule in nature. What means: One human group fight against an other to survive and all against nature. I’m just reading about the desaster of the American Indians in the 19th century. Some of them thought, that the white men hate nature, because they confuse all natural structures. That’s why they were so successful – for a long while?

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  2. Jane, This is a very relevant topic for us all! Here the City of Cape Town has created a number of clearing programmes and put legislation into place in declaring a list of which ‘aliens/exotics’ are illegal to grow. Our biggest challenge are the Australian acacias, Port Jackson, rooikrans, hakeas, black wattle. Lot of activity in my area, coming up with a post soon. Liz.

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  3. Unfortunately, some of these bullies look lovely, making it more difficult to want to get rid of them! On a smaller level, mint is somewhat of a bully, as it can and does grow everywhere and spreads like Attila the Hun conquering Asia!

    janet

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    1. Janet, what you said about some of the “bullies” looking lovely is probably how many of them entered the system in the first place… started as innocent ornamentals in gardens. Then they “jumped the fence” and have created problems and caused havoc every where they go since then.

      Mint? Although a wandering maniac in a garden, may not produce enough seeds, and ace-out natives in ways true invasive do. I wonder if it is included on any of the invasive lists, though. Anyone have information to help here?

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      1. Hi Jane. Mint hasn’t been given an official designation as noxious weed because it is used so frequently by folks for its culinary applications, but some species are quite aggressive in natural areas. One local example is the more diminutive mint pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). It is a successful competitor with many wetland and wet prairie plants. Wet prairies are among the rarest of habitats in Oregon. Pennyroyal produces thousands of seeds per season, making its control very difficult.

        Thank you again for promoting the Weed Watcher program locally and for talking about invasives on your blog!

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        1. Thank you, Rob.
          It’s great to have an expert weigh in on this. I appreciate knowing which species of mint to keep an eye out for in our wetland restoration efforts… that one is on the pull list now.

          The Weed Watcher Workshop was a worthwhile training. My husband and I are both happy we attended. Will pass the information along to Oregon Master Naturalist Willamette Valley cadre.

          Take care,
          Jane

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  4. Oh yeah, Jane Never quite heard the term “bully” used, but invasive plants abound. Its all because of those pesky European settlers that landed and colonised Australia from 1788 and onwards. The modern gardneres that don’t dead head their precious species just continue to contribute to the problem. Morning Glory, Wandering Jew, Agapanthus, Indian Hawthorn and Lantana are just some of the imported species that have become a real pest to our native flora.

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