About those flowers on the side of the road…

This week’s blog was written by Francesca R., a Drummers alumni. She writes about the plants that you can find on the side of the road.

Have you ever thought about those plants on the side of the road, the “wildflowers”? What about those white, pretty flowers that little children find to give to their mothers? Have you ever thought about how dangerous those plants could be for our environment and so many animals who would be better off without them?

During my time at the Wildlife Leadership Academy, I have had the opportunity to learn about numerous plants and their purpose in nature encompassing us, but what intrigued me about the plants in our area was the fact that many of them are not supposed to be here and, in turn, tend to destroy many of the habitats of animals, like deer, grouse, many other birds and land animals in Pennsylvania. These forceful plants are called “invasive,” and rightly so because of their vigorous and effective way of taking over the forests and areas surrounding it, like your backyard, even.

Some Plants on the Side of the Road

Although it may come as a surprise that Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), a beautiful looking plant that many children pick to give their mother, are poisonous weeds that are incredibly harmful to Pennsylvania’s environment. During my time at the Wildlife Leadership Academy last summer, I was tasked with finding and pressing a series of individual plants. While I was adequately picking the plants I wanted, I realized that Queen Anne’s Lace was indeed everywhere, like any other invasive species. It grew in abandoned fields, on the sides of roads, and, well, pretty much anywhere there is room for it to grow. Native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia, this subspecies of wild carrot (yes, wild carrot) has been carefully observed so that it doesn’t take over too much of forest land where trees and other native plants could potentially grow. If you do not want to see these white, lacey, flowery, weeds in your yard, cutting your grass before they develop can help get rid of these weeds before they start to grow.

Queen Anne’s Lace along with some other Plants

Two other invasive plants I found interesting are both native to Japan. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) are both taking forests’ and their native species’ spaces to grow by storm. Although the Japanese barberry may be an excellent plant for landscape designers because it “…exhibits a high ornamental value plus it responds very well to pruning…” according to the Ecological Landscape Alliance, it does not do any help to the wildlife here in the U.S. It grows and spreads, taking over and killing native species of plants that are supposed to flourish as they take care of the various animals in the area. These shrubs can vary in size and color depending on what kind of soil they grow on. Japanese barberry shrubs grow to be quite tall compared to the Japanese stiltgrass, small grass plants that can be found nearly everywhere in the forests around North Eastern and Central Pa. They eat and scour and grow in any space that they can. Every inch that the forest leaves open, it steals. The Japanese stilt grass creates an inhospitable environment for many native species of both animals and plants alike because of its changing of natural soil conditions. Cutting your lawn may not help when trying to get rid of this plant since it is a type of grass. Instead, try to use some mulches, dive into hoeing, and hand weeding. These tactics may help when trying to control this seemingly uncontrollable, yet beautiful, plant.

Flowers that you May See on the Side of the Road

With all being said, do we need to find a way to get rid of these plants for good? Do we have to abolish these plants? I think not! Although they may seem considerably dangerous, they do help individual animals in a few cases. For example, the grouse uses the Japanese barberry shrub for cover from impending threats. In my opinion, and because it would be almost impossible to remove all that Japanese stiltgrass, we should carefully watch how much space these plants are taking. They may overtake places where trees need to grow, so with careful attention and regularly taking out the surplus of invasive species, I believe our forests and animals might have a better chance of getting through a much more significant threat – humans, our deforestations, and ruining of habitats. Therefore, we must make an effort to help the environment and its animals so that not only we might have a better future but for the whole earth.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.