Talking with someone the other day, it came up that this would be a good topic for a blog post. When you go to a nursery or garden center, how do you know which plants are native and which ones are invasive? It’s actually pretty simple these days, lucky for us. Most of us carry the “World Wide Web” with us at all times, so it’s easy to quickly find out where a species of plant comes from if the plants for sale are labelled. You can just Google the species name and the word “native”!
There’s a USDA webpage that is helpful in learning where plants come from and where they are invasive. The picture below shows what I got when I searched on their website for Lonicera sempervirens, a plant that is native to the eastern U.S., as shown by indicating in green the states in which the plant is native and in blue the areas where it has been introduced. In the table to the left of the map, it in dictates that the species is native (N) to the U.S. but has been introduced (I) in Canada.
Below, I’ve searched for Ligustrum sinense, a plant that is not native to the U.S.. This plant has been introduced to many states in the east and southern U.S., as seen by the blue on the map and the “I” indicated next to the native status in the table to the left of the map. (There is a legend for the map just below it on the webpage to indicate what the colors indicate.)
Below, you can see that I have Googled “Nandina invasive”. It is pretty clear from the first few hits that Nandina has invasive tendencies. If it is invasive anywhere in the U.S., you can expect that it will likely become invasive here too. I’ll post another blog soon to explain the reasons why it’s so important to avoid planting invasive species.
For some plant labels, it’s a bit difficult for a less experienced botanist or gardener to determine what the name to google is. Take the tag at the left, for example. On the front of this tag, it simply says ‘Miss Molly’. (Many times, there will be more specific name information on the back of the plant tag in tiny writing.) Simply googling “‘Miss Molly'” isn’t very helpful, but if I google “‘Miss Molly’ pink plant”, I immediately find what I’m looking for and see that it’s a species of Buddleia, a butterfly bush. Then I can google “Buddleia native” to find out if it’s native to my area. It’s not. It’s actually becoming invasive in many places. 😦
I hope this blog was a bit helpful. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them for you.