“Look, Mom, aren’t those plants with red berries along the woods pretty?” It’s an innocent observation from your son or daughter as you drive along a busy highway.
“Yes, they sure are,” you say, without even bothering to look. After all, you need to keep your eyes on the road. That answer will suffice for your kids. What can it hurt?
Ray Chattin, a farmer, forester and member of the Indiana State Soil Conservation Board, contends that it could be a very dangerous answer. He isn’t promoting that you take your eyes off the road when it isn’t safe, but he does highly recommend that you take a close look when you can at what plants are really in those woods. First look with a child’s eyes. Then look closer and think about what you see.
Odds are they’re invasive plants, not native to Indiana, says Chattin, Vincennes. “The understory of a forest should be free of vines and plants which choke other plants out,” he says. “These invasive plants are setting woodlot owners up for disaster. Forests won’t regenerate properly because desirable saplings will be choked out by these opportunistic plants which didn’t originate here.”
Willem Drews prepares educational material and does his best to help people know an invasive species when they see one. He is an employee with the Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The key to determining that you’re looking at an invasive plant that can cause harm in an uncontrolled environment is to be able to identify it, Drews says. He provides pictures and descriptions of plants on the invasive species list in Indiana to help people identify them. There are nearly 100 species on the list, he says. Click through the slideshow below to see five common species Drews says you should learn to identify.
This is the second in a three-part series. For more information, email [email protected].