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Invasive Plant Species

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

With April being designated invasive species awareness month, I decided to take a look at just a few of the invasive species we have in Iowa.

When I hear someone say invasive species, I think of the aquatic species that you find on billboards. I don’t think about plants that can be found in our backyards.

According to the Iowa National Heritage Foundation, invasive plant species are like the common cold. They are easily caught, undesirable and if left alone can lead to more serious conditions. Across the state, there are many more invasive plant species than I thought there were. These weeds take over and strangle out our wild and native plants which leads to less diverse native natural areas.

Following is a list of some of the more common invasive plant species in our area, the threat and how to get rid of them.

Bush Honeysuckle often grows six to 15 feet tall. Many people used it as a privacy bush or snow fence. The plant creates a dense layer that shades out native plants. Full grown plants will need to be cut and the stump treated with herbicide to prevent resprouting.

Garlic mustard is one of Iowa’s most prolific invasive plants. It has no natural predators or diseases and spreads rapidly threatening to overshadow wooded areas and crowd out native plants. A single plant can contain hundreds of seeds. You can hand pull the weed between March and May. Spraying with herbicide works in late fall or early winter, but be sure to avoid this wed between July and October, as the plant is seeding during this time and any interaction could spread the seeds making the situation worse.

One of my favorites (just kidding) is Creeping Charlie. As a child, I thought the purple flowers across the yard were so pretty. Now, I wish I could get rid of it.

Creeping Charlie is a fast growing ground cover that can easily overtake grass, native gardens and landscaping in your yard. Depending on where the weed is located, there are several ways to get rid of it.

In small areas such as a flower bed, hand pulling the weeds is the best method. However, you must make sure you completely remove the root system or the plant can and will regenerate. For your lawn or other grassy area, herbicide treatments in the spring and fall work best. Keep in mind that Creeping Charlie is a persistent plant and it usually requires a few years to completely eliminate.

These are only three invasive plants included on the list of invasive plant species. There are many others listed on the Department of Natural Resources website as well as suggested ways to eliminate these plants before they dominate the landscape that is your yard and other areas of the state.