Invasive non-native trees have a significant impact on the environment. A plant is considered invasive if it spreads quickly and displaces native flora.
Native plants have adapted over thousands of years to work in harmony with native animals. Native plants provide nourishment, habitat, and nesting sites for native animal species in New Jersey.
Let’s explore several invasive plants and understand how they can damage the natural ecosystem in the region.
1. Wisteria sinensis (Chinese Wisteria) & Wisteria floribunda(Japanese Wisteria)
Chinese and Japanese wisteria are actually vines but can be pruned and trained to grow like a tree. Both plants are invasive species that can spread quickly, disrupting an ecosystem.
Chinese and Japanese wisteria are woody vines that are aggressive, fast-growing, and capable of establishing impenetrable thickets. Wisteria escapes cultivation and spreads into uncontrolled areas, crowding out native plants, obstructing nutrient absorption, and even choking and killing native trees with their thick, heavy vines.
2. Clematis terniflora (Japanese clematis)
Despite its aggressive growth habit and being labeled an invasive, Clematis terniflora is still widely available in nurseries. Clematis was initially imported from Japan as an ornamental.
Clematis terniflora is a vine that invades areas along streams and roads, right-of-ways, and forest edges. It quickly grows over other vegetation, forming thick blankets that prevent sunlight from reaching the plants below.
Clematis’s spread can be seen in late July, when its white flowers bloom profusely, covering other flora.
3. Hedera helix (English Ivy)
Hedera helix is an evergreen perennial climbing vine that adheres to brickwork, tree bark, and other objects. It uses root-like structures that exude a glue-like material to attach itself firmly to surfaces.
Birds quickly disperse the seeds of this toxic plant. It grows vegetatively throughout the forest floor before climbing trees, where it can freely produce flowers and fruits. It reduces the diversity of native plants and wildlife, puts endangered species at risk, and alters the soil nutrient dynamics in forests.
4. Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (Porcelain Berry)
The porcelain berry is indigenous to northeast Asia. It was introduced to the northeastern United States as a landscape and bedding plant around 1870.
This plant invades both open and forested areas aggressively and spreads in areas with high to medium light levels. It creeps over other plants and trees as it grows, blocking sunlight and destroying habitat.
Porcelain berry is a woody, deciduous perennial vine that resembles native Vitis grapes. However, the porcelain berries are poisonous. It twines using non-adhesive tendrils that grow opposite the leaves.
5. Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Norway maple has been identified as an invasive tree in several areas of eastern North America. It is being considered a potentially invasive species in several other locations.
It is widely planted in yards and along city streets from where it frequently escapes into the neighboring forest and woodlands. It has the potential to grow and become problematic. Forests invested with Norway maples have changed regarding species diversity and community structure.
This tree can adapt to various environmental conditions and has few natural predators outside its native habitat. It produces many seeds that germinate quickly at the expense of native plants that are not as shade tolerant.
6. Pyrus calleryana (Callery/Bradford pear)
Callery pear was imported to the United States several times to establish fire blight resistance in common pear (Pyrus communis). It was widely used as a rootstock for ordinary pears long before it became popular as an ornamental.
Callery pears are valued for their lovely white flowers that bloom each spring. They are frequently found growing along city streets and in residential areas. Birds feed on the tree’s berries and disperse the seeds to other places.
Callery pears can provide food and habitat for some native animal species. However, they frequently overtake the native plants disrupting the ecology of an area.