What is the invasive plant problem?
Invasive species are recognized as one of the greatest threats to the integrity of natural communities and also as direct threats to the survival of many indigenous species, see Environmental Impacts and Economic Costs of Invasive Species . As a result, the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) has become increasingly engaged in efforts to identify the most problematic species and to manage them when and where it is possible. See The Invasive Plant Problem for an overview of this issue in Massachusetts.
Which Plant Species are Invasive in Massachusetts?
Of the 2263 plant species in Massachusetts that have been documented as native or naturalized (established newcomers introduced directly or indirectly by man), about 725 (32%) are naturalized. Of these, the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG), a committee where NHESP is represented, recognized 66 species as "Invasive," "Likely Invasive," or "Potentially Invasive." The MIPAG website includes definitions and criteria used in evaluating the species.
Are Invasive Plant Species Regulated in Massachusetts?
Once the 66 plant species were recognized by "MIPAG", the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources issued a Rulemaking, adding them to a list of noxious weeds regulated with prohibitions on importation, propagation, purchase and sale in the Commonwealth. Also, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) now encourages Commissioners to consider the wetland impacts of these invasive species during project reviews as part of their jurisdiction under the Wetland Protection Act. Additional species will be evaluated by MIPAG as sufficient data becomes available.
How Can Invasive Plants Be Identified?
Many good references exist in libraries, book stores, and on line to help with making accurate plant identifications. To help identify the 66 regulated species, A Guide to Invasive Plants in Massachusetts 2nd Edition was published in 2008. Additionally, some useful web sites with images, descriptions, ranges, and habitat characteristics can be found among the table of invasive plant web sites prepared by NHESP.
How Can Invasive Plants be Managed?
In 2004, MIPAG completed a report offering recommendations for managing invasive plants in Massachusetts Strategic Recommendations for Managing Invasive Plants in Massachusetts. All state agencies within EEA are contributing in some way to this effort. It is important that management strategies be well researched and planned; otherwise scarce funds and human resources could be wasted. Information on the biology of invasive species and their management is increasing dramatically and much can be found on the web. New scientific journals have arisen that deal specifically with invasive species research.
- Identify and control or eradicate invasive plant species where possible, starting with one's own property or local conservation areas where control projects are underway or being planned. Volunteer with the New England Wild Flower Society to help with their invasive plant monitoring and control projects.
- Report invasive species to NHESP using official field forms or to the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE).
- Educate others and report anyone illegally selling, growing, or distributing invasive plants.
- Plant only native plant species or non-native species that have been researched and proven to be non-aggressive in terms of naturalizing into natural areas or minimally managed habitats in Massachusetts or New England. One useful resource for native recommendations is NHESP's table of Native Shrubs for Planting as Wildlife Food .