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Plants to Know: Invasive, Exotic and Native Species


| 10/13/2014 11:49:00 AM


You’ve heard these words before, but what exactly do they mean? How do you figure out if a plant is invasive, exotic or native? With a little help, learn which plants will save you a lot of time and trouble in your garden.

Invasive Plants

Invasive plants are…well, invasive. They take over. They spread like crazy. They can cause devastating ecological impacts, and boy are they hard to remove. Many invasive plants travel via human activity, in bird droppings, or are carried on the fur of animals. Their tendency to multiple at alarming rates is part of what makes them invasive.

Invasive plants crowd out native plants and disturb the delicate balance in a region's ecosystem. Invasive plants and trees are able to flourish outside of their native region. Some can even be dangerous. I know two people that were sent to the emergency room after removing a Brazilian Pepper. The Brazilian Pepper can cause allergic, burn-like reactions.

Some examples of invasive plants in the Southeast region of the country are Brazilian Pepper, Melaleuca and Air Potato. To find a list of invasive plants in your area check out your local extension office, and ask for the Master Gardeners.

Invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree
This tree is spread by birds as they eat the red berries and excrete them along their travels. This invasive species can cause serious health issues. Photo courtesy Poly Cal.



Exotic Plants

An exotic plant is a non-native plant that has been introduced into a new region, but does not cause ecological devastation or have exploding populations. However, when an exotic becomes out of control its classification may change to invasive.



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