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Nature Notebook – Invasive Plant Adaptations

Since the time humans began to establish new homesteads, they have moved plants around the globe. Sometimes the transfer was purposeful…they wanted to have their favorite plants with them. Sometimes the transfer was accidental…like the ancient Iceman who stuffed insulating grasses into his shoes before crossing the mountain.

Some of these plants happily established themselves in their new habitat. In fact, they established themselves so well that they displaced the native plants. They are appropriately called “Invasives.”

Begrudgingly, one has to admire their adaptations. They can reproduce from vegetative growth (e.g., tiny bits of roots) or seed. Their flowers produce a prodigious number of seeds, numbering from thousands to millions per plant. Those seeds are not picky about their germination location and can remain viable for five or more years! Plants are capable of rapid growth.

The non-native invasive plants have no natural enemies to keep their populations in check. Garlic mustard in its native Europe has over 30 insect predators; there are no predators here.