Gardeners, new OSU pub offers ecological alternatives to invasive plants

May 9, 2008

GardenSmart publication

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon's varied climates allow a wide variety of plants from around the world to flourish and nursery crops have become Oregon's number one commodity. Unfortunately, this growing paradise allows some widely used plants in gardens and landscapes to perform too well and cause serious ecological harm by "escaping," or naturalizing into the wild.

A few of these "botanical barbarians" include Scotch broom, purple loosestrife, English ivy and knapweed.

To help home gardeners and landscape designers make sound ecological choices about what to plant in their gardens, the Oregon State University Extension Service has developed a 52-page color publication called "GardenSmart Oregon" in cooperation with several other public and private organizations.

The photo-illustrated publication discusses and 25 of the most commonly invasive plants in Oregon and provides non-invasive alternatives. Available online or in print, this booklet offers gardeners, landscape pond owners and landscape designers many choices of non-invasive plants for Oregon's growing conditions, while protecting the health and beauty of Oregon's natural lands and waters.

For example, butterfly bush, also known as summer lilac, has been widely planted as a flowering shrub in the Pacific Northwest. In milder regions of the state, it has escaped, forming crowded stands along riverbanks and in harvested forestlands, pastures and open waste areas. It spreads by broken stem fragments and by wind and water dispersed seeds.

In place of butterfly bush, GardenSmart recommends planting non-invasive flowering shrub alternatives including native red flowering currant, mock orange or blue elderberry or ornamentals such as eastern ninebark, beautyberry or Korean spicebush viburnum.

"Invasive plants can become serious problems that threaten water quality, wildlife and our economy by crowding out native plants, changing stream flows, increasing erosion, competing with crops or creating fire hazards," explained Sam Chan, aquatic ecosystems health educator with the OSU-based Sea Grant program.

"Every Oregonian can do something to safeguard what we love about our state," said Chan. "The first step is to avoid purchasing, planting, or growing invasive plants."

GardenSmart Oregon may be downloaded online. Or order a printed copy online or by calling 1-800-561-6719 ($3 shipping and handling fee applies). Local county offices of the OSU Extension Service will have copies available for no charge.

GardenSmart Oregon was created by the cooperative efforts of the City of Portland, The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Clackamas Community College, Oregon Public Broadcasting, OSU Extension Service and OSU Sea Grant.

Another new publication from OSU on invasive species in the Pacific Northwest is Oregon Sea Grant's "On the Lookout for Aquatic Invaders: Identification Guide for the Pacific Northwest," a 72-page full-color field guide for watershed councils and other community groups. This bound guide illustrates and identifies the key characteristics of many aquatic invaders already established – or likely to become established – in the Pacific Northwest. It is available for $4.95 plus shipping and handling.

Also available:

Pacific Northwest’s Least Wanted List: Invasive Weed Identification and Management

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Sam Chan