Invaders in Our Midst

Are your neighbors’ plants making a home in your shrubbery? Are your trees getting strangled by greenery you never bought? Are leaves from unknown aquatic greens traveling on your boat to find a home in your favorite lake?

Conservation officials remind us that invasive plants are a local problem. And they’re a problem in our waterways as well.

According to the state’s invasive species coordinator, invasive plants impact endangered or threatened species, reduce diversity and wildlife habitat, affect water quality, damage property and lead to starvation of birds.

Japanese knotweed, bittersweet, purple loosestrife, multiflora rose, and burning bush thrive locally, and literally have a stranglehold on portions of our woodlands and roadsides.

But we don’t have to leave our yards to encounter invasives. All it takes is ignoring an invasive’s presence in one location, and soon it has taken over the neighborhood.

What invasives do is simple – they take over, crowding out native plants. It’s a battle we may be losing, and we can’t wait for someone else to take care of it – if the plants have arrived, they’ll be in your yard soon.

Homeowners can help control these invaders by learning to identify them, joining in volunteer efforts to control them, and following professionals’ instructions about disposing of any soil and plant matter that gets on clothes, shoes or tires during the eradication.

Meanwhile, if you think the water is safe from unwelcome visitors, think again.

State officials regularly issue warnings to boaters to pay attention to what they might be putting in the water. Summers in New Hampshire now demand a new way to look at hitchhiking and littering – boats, trailers, motors, fishing equipment, bait buckets, and diving gear can carry aquatic weeds, leaving an infested lake in their wake.

With no natural predators, the plants quickly dominate native plants, fish, and aquatic life. That translates into impaired water quality and reduced shorefront property values.

If you enjoy a kayak or canoe ride, pay attention to the plants in the water as well as to the scenery and birdlife you are paddling out to enjoy. If you’ve had your boat in another body of water, examine it carefully before returning to your home lake. Encourage fellow boaters to do the same.

Prevention is the name of the game, and it’s the job of each one of us to preserve the quality of the lakes we love.

And back on land? Contact your local conservation commission, Extension Service or the state for advice on getting rid of invasive plants. This battle won’t be won unless each of us does our share.

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