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Weekly Weed Series: The Japanese Barberry

Coming straight from the Carroll County Forestry Board by way of Bethany Slaughter, here are some great tips on how to identify and control Japanese Barberry in Maryland, as well as the ways in which it threatens our local ecology.

 

Barberry is native to China and Japan, then was introduced as an ornamental plant. The seeds are eaten by mammals and birds, spreading it throughout the eastern U.S. The berries of this plant are also edible with a bitter taste and a hint of sweetness. You could try using them with other fruits in pies or jelly preserves to add a tart flavor.

 

How to Identify the Japanese Barberry:

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The Ecological Threat:

Japanese Barberry produces a large number of seeds as well as rhizomes to form new plants that shade out and displace native species. The thorns and dense foliage also provide refuge for small mammals that host the deer tick, the carrier of Lyme and other diseases. That makes this species a human health hazard.

Likely Habitat:

Japanese Barberry can tolerate a range of conditions but grows best in sunny, fertile, moist, and well-drained soil. It spreads from gardens to natural areas that are suitable for its growth and establishment.

How to Control:

Do not plant or encourage the planting of this species. Some garden supply dealers and landscapers have agreed to stop selling Japanese Barberry. When removing this species, pull out the entire plant including the roots to prevent regrowth.

 

Join us next week when we explore Oriental Bittersweet.

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Weekly Weed Series; What You Should Know About Invasive Plants

At our recent Community Plant Swap, the Master Gardeners supported native plant selections and discouraged attendees from picking up those few “invasive” plants that were found in circulation. Valid advice though it is, why should we choose native, non-invasive plants for planting and avoid exotic invasives? Even further, what should we do when we find ourselves dealing with a garden (or yard!) take-over? Read on for expert information regarding invasive exotic species, how to identify them and what the best way to control their growth.

What is an invasive exotic species?

Invasive exotic plants are ones that have been introduced by people from other continents or ecosystems, whose introduction causes economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.

How did they get here?

Many were brought here intentionally for ornamental use, erosion control, or wildlife habitat. Others were brought accidentally or as byproducts of human industry; in transporting goods in the hulls of ships, by carried seeds.

How do invasive exotic species take over?

They have a lack of natural enemies to control their populations, because when they are brought to a new ecosystem, their predators don’t come along. They can also be spread by prolific seeding, which is when they are dispersed inadvertently by animals and humans. Some invasive species can even spread by stolons or rhizomes underground, making the roots hard to remove. Most of them green out early, which shades out native plants and improves their own chance of survival. Deer also play a role in the spread of invasive species by only browsing on native plants, preventing them from growing.

 

 

Why do we care?

After the loss of habitat through development, the encroachment of invasive exotic plants causes the most harm to our native species. Development is something we are always going to be doing, while the spread of invasives is something we can prevent. These invasive weeds crowd out native plants that are important to the ecosystem. Our native animals suffer when the native plants they depend on are no longer around. Getting rid of these non native plants will improve forest quality by allowing the native plants to grow, which provide food and shelter for wildlife. Healthy ecosystems also help provide clean air and water for people, as well as filter the soil. A forest may look healthy with lots of older native trees, but invasives in the understory will eventually affect the overstory by preventing new trees from growing.

What can we do?

Learn how to identify and remove invasive species by reading the Weekly Weed articles and becoming a Weed Warrior! Most counties have one of these programs to do invasive species control and keep their forests healthy. The Carroll County Weed Warrior program was initiated by a Master Gardener, Carolyn Puckett, in 2010. Anyone can be a Weed Warrior! There are currently over 400 volunteers in our database who have removed over 40 acres of invasive plants. We work mainly at Bear Branch and Piney Run Park, but are always looking for new places to work and new groups to network with. You can help change the forest from being covered with invasives, to providing food and shelter for wildlife! Contact ccforestryboard@gmail.com for more information.