Plants that spread quickly and take over an area in a short period of time may be considered “invasive.” Most are alien or exotic plants introduced here from another country that has a similar climate. They often lack the natural enemies or other conditions of their home country that keep them in check. Once introduced, they can spread quickly and persist. Invasive plants crowd out desirable plants in pastures, croplands, lakes and streams, forests, lawns, and gardens. They displace plants that livestock and wildlife feed on. They can cause harm to human or animal health.
Invasive plants have characteristics that help them to infest new land. They produce large amounts of seed that are easily dispersed by wind, water, birds and animals. They attach themselves to animals, people, and vehicles. Many sprout from cuttings, roots, and dormant seeds, especially when soil or gravel is brought in from elsewhere. These strategies can give invasive plants an upper hand when we change or disturb the land. They can quickly take over roadsides, construction sites, tilled fields, over-grazed pastures, ground exposed or compacted by livestock, and recently-harvested timber stands, skid trails, and log decks.
Numerous non-native, invasive plants have become established in East Texas. Among the most common are Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, Chinese tallow, Japanese climbing fern, Asian bamboos, Chinese wisteria, giant reed, Chinaberry, and mimosa. Common invasive plants of Central and West Texas include King Ranch (KR) bluestem, Chinese privet, glossy or Japanese privet, Johnson grass, star thistle, nandina, Japanese honeysuckle, Chinaberry, salt cedar, and giant reed. See Texas Forest Service fact sheets or the Internet web page www.texasinvasives.org for photos and descriptions of these and other invasive plants for these regions.
As a landowner, you can protect your land from invasive plants by identifying and controlling new infestations on your property. Prevention, however, is the preferred approach. Following good land use practices is the key to prevention. Manage soil disturbances by immediately re-vegetating bare ground with desirable plants. Maintain healthy pastures and woodlands by monitoring and rotating livestock grazing. Till and seed properly and fertilize and water desirable native plants to keep them robust and healthy. Avoid spreading invasive plant seeds in manure, on livestock, and from mud and plant parts attached to farm, ranch, and logging equipment, vehicles, trailers, and boats. Once invasive plants are established, you can control them to reduce their impact and keep them from spreading. Control measures may include mechanical treatments such as uprooting or mowing, biological treatments using insects, fungi, or livestock, and herbicide treatments. A combination of treatments is often required. Since invasive plants don’t go away easily, these treatments may need repeating.
Resources are available to help you avoid and control invasive plants. Web sites and plant databases are available, such as www.texasinvasives.org, TNC Invasive Species Initiative page, National Invasive Species Information Center, and LBJ Wildflower Center. State resources are available from Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Cooperative Extension, and Texas Aquatic Plant Management Society among others. A useful reference is James H. Miller’s publication Non-native Invasive Plants: A Field Guide for Identification and Control (USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station General Technical Report SRS-62). This publication is available from the USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Auburn University, AL or on the Web at http://www.invasive.org/eastern/srs/.
Invasive plants are a big problem for us in Texas. Good land use practices and persistent management are the keys to successfully addressing this pest problem. Resources are available in many forms to help you identify, prevent and control invasive plants on your land.
Invasive plants in Central Texas
Invasive plants in East Texas
Invasive plants in South Texas
Invasive plants in West Texas