Non-Native Plants Costly for Environment, Pocketbooks

February 29, 2008 - 09:32

The price tag that comes with caring for non-native plant species is steep, said ecologist Jack Pizzo, during a speech at the Conservation Foundation’s Winter Membership & Awards Luncheon last week. Non-native plants cost the United States about $200 billion each year to monitor, contain and control, said Pizzo, who is also a landscape architect and president of Pizzo & Associates in Leland, Ill.

Non-native invasive plants are alien species whose introduction causes economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health, Pizzo said. “They readily establish themselves in a new habitat and threaten or eliminate the ability for native species to thrive.”
Approximately 50,000 foreign species of plants thrive in the United States, Pizzo said. And that number keeps climbing, in part because of the growing movement of plant, animal and disease organisms that accompany globalization.

In the Midwest, the most “notorious” examples include buckthorn, multi-flora rose and garlic mustard. About 42 percent of native plants labeled threatened or endangered are at risk primarily because of non-indigenous species, Pizzo said.

Non-native species can upset the delicate balance found in nature, native plants contribute to natural systems. They are dynamic, resilient as well as beautiful and functional. Many natives have adapted over time to tolerate local weather conditions and often feature deep root systems, which can easily find water during drought conditions.

The Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit land and watershed protection organization. For additional information on native plants and The Conservation Foundation’s services, visit the organization’s website or call (630) 428-4500.

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