Invasive Plant Species: Your Garden May Not Be the Oasis You Think
CJ resident and ecologist Mark Frey started his talk on invasive plant species by telling the attendees of the June 1 CJCA meeting they were not going to like what he had to say…and he was right!
Folks in the audience actually groaned as he described well-loved greenery, including English Ivy, Bush Honeysuckle, Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina), and the Butterfly Bush as plants non grata in the garden.
It turns out the dense ground cover provided by English Ivy also makes a perfect habitat for rats.
The fragrant Bush Honeysuckle produces berries that birds love. But it’s like giving them a diet of Twinkies, said Frey, explaining that the lower nutritional value means birds are undernourished. The early leafing by Bush Honeysuckles also attracts birds building nests. But since they leaf out before other shrubs, there is a less dense protective canopy making the nests more vulnerable to predators, such as racoons and hawks.
Nandina also is bad news for birds, and possibly cats and dogs, as its berries contain cyanide and can be toxic when consumed in large enough quantities.
The Butterfly Bush actually harms the beautiful flying insect it is named after. While its abundant nectar attracts butterflies and other pollinators, the leaves of the Butterfly Bush do not provide caterpillars with the feed and habitat they need to grow into butterflies.
These plants and others named by Frey, including Pachysandra, Silver Grass (Miscanthus), Periwinkle, daylilies, most viburnums, and Garlic Mustard are all problematic because of how easily they spread, crowding out native species that local insects and animals need for their habitat.
Garlic Mustard is especially insidious as it also produces harmful chemicals that can damage the soil, making it harder for native plants to grow. Frey and fellow CJ resident Eric Dinerstein, who writes the beloved Nature column in this newsletter, are on a personal crusade to eradicate Garlic Mustard from the area of Cabin John Creek in our community.
If you’ve hiked the forest trail from Seven Locks to the park by the one-lane bridge recently, you may have noticed pulled Garlic Mustard lying on the trail. The plant is easy to identify and pull when it first comes up, and it must be pulled two years in a row to get rid of it. Next spring, they hope to create a wedding brigade of CJ residents to tackle the Garlic Mustard scourge in this area.
The good news to come out of Frey’s talk is that there are plenty of native plants that can be used in the garden to achieve a similar effect without doing harm to the ecosystem.
For instance, butterfly milkweed also produces lots of nectar attracting butterflies, including the threatened Monarch butterfly, which only lays eggs in the nine milkweed species. It’s easy to grow, but does take several years to flower.
Instead of invasive ground covers, Frey suggests trying Pennsylvania Sedge, a drought tolerant, low-growing plant that provides dense cover. For cover in shady areas, consider Wild Ginger, whose early-blooming hidden flowers provide food to insects. While Wild Ginger goes bare in the winter months, it comes up early to provide cover.
Consider swapping out Silver Grass and other invasive grasess for switchgrass, Little bluestem and native sedges, which not only look good but can fight erosion.
Frey provided the following links for more information and purchasing native plants:
CJCA Officers Elected for the 2022-2023 Term
Four new officers are joining a cadre of dedicated returning veterans to lead the Cabin John Citizens Association for the coming year. Attendees at the June 1 CJCA meeting elected new co-presidents Scott and Heidi Lewis of MacArthur Blvd., who said they stepped up to ensure that Cabin John activities and traditions carry on.
The two other new officers are Kelly Banuls as secretary and Vice President of Communications Theresa Burton. The new officers will be profiled in upcoming issues of The Village News.
When you see these folks in the neighborhood, make sure to thank them for their service!
• Co-Presidents — Heidi Lewis and Scott Lewis
• Secretary — Kelly Banuls
• Treasurer — Bob Walsh
• Vice Presidents for Activities — Irena Bojanova
• Vice President for Activities — Kesha Leets
• Vice President for Advocacy — Charlotte Troup-Leighton
• Vice President for Communications — Marcy Harrison
• Vice President for Communications —Theresa Burton
• Vice President for Community Outreach — Stephanie Lai
• Vice President for Community Outreach — Heather Tomlinson
• Vice President for Community Service — Justin Webster
By Susan Shipp
CJ Resident, Past Co-President CJCA