When planting a bee garden or landscaping a flower bed, there’s a big push right now to choose native species over introduced ones. Natives are beneficial for a variety of reasons–they’re already adapted to the environment so need less tending to, and they help native wildlife thrive.
Introduced species aren’t always harmful. If you plant a row of pumpkin seeds in your garden, it’s unlikely that they will take over the whole neighborhood. Other species however, can end up crowding natives out and taking over, while providing little in return.
One example of this is the popular flower, Baby’s Breath. Baby’s Breath has sweet, white flowers often used as a filler in flower bouquets. It grows easily, and can spread as much as 10,000 seeds per plant! This flower is often included in pollinator mixes, with assurances given by the company that it is an “annual” which somehow makes it less harmful.
While the plant may die within a year, the seeds live on, spreading and choking out native life. Other invasive species include Scotchbroom, which can take over vast swaths of land and make it so nothing else can grow.
What you can do
Your state or province should have its own noxious weed control panel. Since this will be unique to your area, this is where you should check to see if what you are planting will grow wildly out of control, or whether it is safe to plant. Many companies also offer native wildflower seeds specific to your area.
If the seed packet has a generic name like “Wildflower seeds” instead of “Southwest Wildflower seeds” or where ever your specific location is, check the listed flowers to make sure they are either native, or at the very least benign, before planting.
What you grow can have a huge impact on the environment, not just in your own backyard, but in your whole region. Remember many of these noxious weeds that whole countries are fighting to control started with a single seed. What you plant matters, and is worth the research.
Symptoms of a potentially noxious weed
Plants that are likely to grow out of control may vary from location to location, but their general makeup is the same. An invasive species typically gets the title when it:
- Produces a lot of seeds
- Grows easily in any disturbed soil
- Has seeds that can easily be distributed by wind or animals
- Can spread by their root systems
Less commonly, a native species might have characteristics that choke out other species, either through roots or growing vines. If you think a plant may have one of these characteristics, it’s better not to choose one of these for your set up.
If you already have an invasive species running rampant in your backyard, your local noxious weed control panel may be able to help. Call them for tips on what you can do to control the species safely and for tips on what you can plant instead.