Native plants, those that are naturally occurring in your garden’s locale, are adapted to your climate. They won’t leaf out while there’s still a chance they’ll be harmed by cold weather, and they drop their leaves when it’s clear wintery cold is returning. Alien plants came from Somewhere Else–whether by your hand or uninvited–and don’t show the same degree of adaptation. (Oh. Did you think I was going to tell you how to spot space aliens? Sorry to disappoint.)
After the main leaf drop–which is helped along by wind and rain–I like to walk around our acreage to see what in the understory still has leaves. Those shrubs are typically aliens, because it takes longer for them to get the memo that winter is coming.When we moved here five years ago, there was a burning bush (Euonymus alatus) planted by the mailbox and two more planted by the front door. I removed them because they are invasive in New England and I didn’t want to take the chance of them spreading to the woods here. (They have since been banned in NY.) After all, my climate in upstate NY is not that different. This particular shrub was growing where the lawn meets the woods. It wasn’t planted by human hands and its blazing red color stood out from the other vegetation. I can’t tell you how long it’s been there because I never noticed it before–burning bush isn’t very distinctive until autumn–but I’m glad I removed the other burning bushes from my landscape before even more seeds germinated. This is not the first seedling of barberry that I’ve found, just the most recent one. Not only does barberry outcompete native vegetation, but it also provides habitat for the ticks that transmit Lyme disease. According to Lee Reich, “A forest with barberry growing in it hosted 120 Lyme-carrying ticks per acre; without barberry, a mere 10 per acre.”
And did you notice the pale green leaves behind the barberry in the first picture of it? That’s Tartarian honeysuckle, which I’ve been battling for a long time. Tartarian honeysuckle is why I pay attention when someone says a shrub is invasive. We may have an odd burning bush and a handful of barberry shrublets, but Tartarian honeysuckle carpets the understory, shading out the spring ephemerals that I love.And like barberry and burning bush, Tartarian honeysuckle was originally brought into this country as an ornamental landscape plant. Everyone thought it was harmless for years.
Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”