Keeping it local
April is invasive plants, pets and wildlife diseases education month for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA’s Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is offering tips to help fight invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer and non-native plants.
“We do have some problems here in Virginia and this is one of those areas where there actually are some things that people can do to either not introduce them or not spread them,” said Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the department.
The problem with non-native species, as Lidholm and other state officials have noted, is that there is no method of natural resistance.
“For whatever reason, they tend to be pretty hearty, they grow and spread pretty rapidly,” Lidholm said.
The department is encouraging residents to select local, native plants for their gardens.
“This is an example where buying local really makes a lot of sense because we have so many beautiful plants available,” Lidholm said.
At Fort Valley Nursery in Woodstock, owner Terry Fogle said that “a fairly large amount” of the plants sold there are localized for this area.
With a wide selection of local plants, Fogle said the nursery tries to keep the focus on the Shenandoah Valley.
“We are very careful to only offer plants that are hearty to our zone for landscape plants,” Fogle added. “The plants that we offer … have been selected for the valley.”
Fogle, who has been in horticulture for more than 40 years, added that a lot of invasive plants have “been introduced either on purpose or by mistake.”
As an example, Fogle talked about the kudzu plant that has wreaked havoc in much of the United States, including Virginia and West Virginia.
In fact, the USDA Forest Service has noted that the kudzu is often referred to as “the vine that ate the south.”
“That was a plant that was introduced on purpose as a potential pasture-type plant for livestock to eat,” Fogle said. “It has just taken over areas.”
When an invasive plant takes over an area, Fogle said they can “shade out” the native plants from resources and nutrients they require for growth.
Fogle said the primary issue is always that these pests rarely have natural predators.
Another threat the USDA is fighting is the emerald ash borer, which has caused problems in Shenandoah National Forest.
One method used to prevent the spread of emerald ash borer, for example, is to set up firewood quarantine areas in states where the creatures have spread.
These zones — which include Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — are designed to discourage the spread of firewood that is not “USDA certified.”
Enforcing or monitoring these zones, Lidholm sid, is “very difficult … because quite often, you’re talking about one family, one couple or one person” that is traveling across the state to visit a park.
The problem with this is that some people prefer to save money by bringing their own firewood to the park, Lidholm explained. But firewood is one of the quickest methods of spreading the emerald ash borer.
At the moment, Lidholm said the department is simply “trying to get the word out” about invasive species.
“Maybe we need to think before we pick up that stick of firewood and move it three counties away, and … emphasize our local plants,” Lidholm said.
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org