“Plants” of Attack
Common Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica
Polk County Conservation Board has launched an attack on damaging plant species that are invading your public parks and wildlife areas. Staff members from the conservation board will be hard at work cutting, chipping, and hauling away brush in attempts to allow Iowa's native plants the chance to once again thrive in this area.
Non-native or exotic plant species are introduced to areas primarily through seed dispersal. One plant can produce up to 1 million seeds per season, making it easy for birds, wildlife, wind, water, and even humans to spread these seeds. Until the plants are controlled through biological, mechanical, or chemical means, they will continue to threaten vulnerable native areas competing for nutrients, sunlight, and space. The elimination of native plants endangers our native wildlife, including insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and other animals.
The "Filthy Four" exotic species that threaten local parks are Common Buckthorn, Bush Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, and Multiflora Rose. Although their visual appearance differs, they have many similar characteristics. They thrive in all kinds of soil and light conditions; their viable seeds can remain embedded in the soil for many years; they have a rapid growth rate and resprout after being cut; and many were introduced to North America as ornamental foliage. These characteristics enable the plant to thrive and require a long-term commitment from landowners and conservation agencies.
What can you do to prevent the spread of these exotic plants? First, start getting involved in PCCB's efforts to remove these species by volunteering. Throughout the next few years, we will be organizing volunteer work days in hopes of obtaining the "people-power" needed to combat this problem. Secondly, think pro-actively rather than re-actively. Think about and research the plants you use for landscaping, making sure they are native to your area. Eliminate any existing exotic species on your property and spread the word to neighbors and even local nurseries and garden shops. Lastly, avoid disturbing natural areas as it increases their vulnerability. Be aware of what you release into the environment and what you transport from one region to another.
For more information regarding our efforts or to indicate that you or your group would be interested in volunteering, please contact the Polk County Conservation Board at 323-5300.