Not only are our native plant species being lost at an alarming rate due to human development, an onslaught of invasive exotic species is also contributing significantly to their decline.
The climate and wide variation in habitat types in South Carolina supports a rich diversity of native plants throughout the state. This same rich environment can support many species of plants from around the world. Some of these “non-native” plants are beautiful and useful, while others become invasive pests. These invasive plants are fierce competitors that threaten South Carolina’s native biodiversity and ecosystems. Living in the South, we’re all familiar with Kudzu, but there are many more species which have found their way into our state which are having a major economic impact.
Along with invasive plants of other origins, these escapees create serious environmental problems. Without the natural controls found in their place of origin, invasive weeds move quickly into agricultural areas and wild lands. In the home garden they can become a significant weeding chore, but their infiltration into agricultural and natural areas are a disaster for land stewards and a financial drain for both farmers and consumers. In natural landscapes, waterways and recreation areas are impacted by decreased quality of animal habitat and increased risk of wildfires as invasive weeds take over and crowd out native vegetation. The costs to manage the problem are overwhelming. Invasive weeds are the second greatest threat to biodiversity and ecosystems after human caused habitat destruction.
How You Can Help Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants
SCNPS supports control – and where possible – eradication of invasive weeds. The most important and economical way to control invasive plants is to prevent their introduction (quarantine). While the SCDNR maintains programs to prevent the introduction of pest plants, it is up to all of us to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species. Seeds, as well as entire plants must not be brought into the state unless they are in compliance with quarantine regulations.
Early Detection with Rapid Response is the second most important and economical method of controlling invasive plants. “Eliminate them before they spread” is a sound strategy when dealing with invasive plants.
You can also help stop the spread of invasive plants by being careful with clothing and equipment that has been worn or used when traveling from one area to another. Vehicles, animals and pets, and clothing can carry invasive plants from here to there. Make sure that any nursery stock you buy (or sell) is free of invasive weeds.
Most of all, remember that many invasive plants begin as ornamental introductions sold in garden centers and nurseries. You can help control the spread of invasive weeds by not purchasing and planting seeds or plants in your own yard that are known to be invasive in the wild. The South Carolina Exotic Plant Pest Council (SC-EPPC) website lists commonly used plants that are known invasive species and the Homeowner’s section of this website suggests alternative plants to use in private or public landscapes.