Should I be worried about invasive species?
According to Stephen Ricker, director of conservation and wildlife management and general manager at Westmoreland Sanctuary, it’s too late to be worried.
The barn door is open, and the horses have run out. “It is time to be proactive and do something,” Ricker says.
The last few years he’s been in “a state of panic” but is now resigned that invasive species are here to stay. “We need to prevent the influx of more,” Ricker says, citing new invasives discovered at Westmoreland just in the past five to ten years.
Japanese Angelica Tree (Aralia elata), Mile-a-Minute Vine (Periscaria perfoliata), and Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) are new blights keeping him up nights.
Carolyn Sears of The Invasives Project-Pound Ridge reports that many people tell her about their winged euonymus (Japanese barberry) and that it’s “not a problem.” A local nursery told her about a stand of Devil’s Walking Stick they’ve admired for 20 years. “The problem is the seeds disperse throughout the community and into our preserves. Think of it as biological pollution.”
She notes invasives are quick to get established, grow aggressively, lack predators, and reproduce abundantly. “These plants out compete the native plants, change natural habits, and provide less nourishment for butterflies, birds, turtles, and other animals,” Sears says.
Ricker notes that non-native species have pushed the natives to the point of extinction locally.