When it comes to unwanted foreigners on our soil, I have a simple solution: Kill ’em. That’s right, kill ’em. Old, young, newcomer, established, kill ’em all. Sure, it’s tempting to save that cute little one—so innocent, so pure. Well, let one live and the next thing you know, they’ll be all grown up and breeding another generation just like ’em. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
The only truly effective means of handling these pesky invaders is pulling ’em up by their roots, cramming ’em into secure facilities and, as soon as practicable, sending ’em to their deaths. Burn ’em, stomp ’em into pulp, lock ’em in a dark bin with no food or water, whatever works, that’s what I say. You may think me callous or cruel, but it’s really the only way to guarantee the health and prosperity of those who do belong here.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, nosirreebob. Yet everywhere I turn, it seems there’s another crop of foreigners sucking up our resources and refusing to assimilate into our environment. Oh, how it burns me to see millions take advantage of plenty that doesn’t belong to them. And don’t get me started on people who knowingly harbor these invaders. Honestly, we should all be ashamed that we’ve allowed this to happen on our watch. If we don’t do something, soon they’re going to take over the country; hell, most of the state is already infested!
I am, of course, referring to invasive plants. If you thought I meant something else, I tricked you, buckaroo.
If you’re a gardener, as I am, you’ve encountered a plethora of invasive plants. Locally, the air potato is probably most familiar, along with camphor trees, elephant ear and wisteria. Yes, wisteria, the fragrant purple flower that calls to mind romance in spring and Desperate Housewives. It’s not the only beautiful, beloved plant that’s put down roots where they don’t belong. Also on this list belong mimosa trees, water hyacinth, Mexican petunia, Japanese honeysuckle and so many more.
I know, major bummer. Disclosure: There are a few invasive species in my yard—actually, I discovered one of my favorites is invasive while researching this piece; honeysuckle that my husband’s long-dead grandfather planted, with which I have made wine, just as my mother and great-grandmother have done before me. Yes, I do feel conflicted about it. No, I do not plan to kill it. (Apologies to my biologist bestie who works for Florida Park Services.)
So what is a homeowner to do? First, find out what an invasive plant is—simply put, it’s a non-native species that thrives and propagates. Some, though not all, also significantly displace natives, thus harming the ecosystem by reducing food sources and habitat. Some choke waterways like water hyacinth, or block out the sun like air potato, or even cause a rash like Brazilian pepper, which is actually illegal to sell or plant in the state.
Once armed with information, you have a few choices. Foremost, never plant an invasive. Nor should you plant something you’re not sure of—do a little research before digging that hole. There are plenty of resources online; I used Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Lists for this article. The amazing and wonderful folks at the UF/IFAS extension are an excellent source of knowledge and expertise on all things plants.
For any invasive that’s already taken up residence, the most responsible choice is death, and soon. You can also transfer it to a pot, or keep it carefully trimmed and contained, which is better than leaving it to its own devices, but far from failsafe, as vines will pop up yards from the mother plant and seeds blow in the breeze and are consumed and planted, in a manner of speaking, by birds.
If you do fight the good fight, be warned: Some invasives are so established, you may never completely eradicate them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try—every little bit helps. Also be aware that plant fads move quickly and it takes time for a species to be recognized as invasive. Most do not consider Asiatic jasmine invasive—but trust me on this one, once established, it gets everywhere and it is an absolute bastard to get rid of. And no matter what you’ve heard, it will not bloom. Best not to bother.
When choosing plants, ask around. Gardeners are a very helpful bunch. Lots of plant nurseries and supply stores offer entire sections of natives for crunchy granolas like me, and people who loathe irrigating. ’Cause other than, ya know, saving the planet, one of the best things about natives is that they basically take care of themselves—no irrigating, no covering, minimal (if any) fertilization; they’re a lazy gardener’s AND environmentalist’s dream. Plus, they attract wildlife. See, some good deeds do go unpunished.