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Spot on Science: Invasive Species

Did you know that many of the plants, animals and insects you see each day are not native to America?

We may call them ‘weeds’, ’invaders’ or specifically Invasive Species.

Nearly 1,000 plants and animals now in Ohio were not here when settlers first arrived hundreds of years ago.

They were brought here – sometimes on purpose, like the European starling introduced in the 1890’s - and sometimes by accident, like the zebra mussel brought into the Great Lakes by ships from Europe in the 1980’s.

Many of the common plants around us are invasive – garlic mustard, honey suckle, knotweed, barberry, loosestrife… their names are great, but their impact on ecosystems, not so great.

Many invasive species take over native habitats and squeeze out local plants and animals.

They do that because they often don’t have natural predators to control populations.

One way to slow the spread of invasive species is to only plant native species when you do gardening.

Many invasives started off as decorative plants but escaped into the wild and wreaked havoc in the environment.

Invasive insects have caused several native trees to go extinct including the American chestnut, American elm and ash trees.

New invasives are arriving all the time.

The Asian spotted lantern fly is the latest. It’s now invading Ohio where it’s threatening grape vines and fruit trees.

It’s important to learn which plants and animals around you are native and which are invasive so that you can help native plants and animals survive in their struggles with aggressive newcomers.

Discussion Questions:

How many of these invasive species have you spotted around your town?

Which one was the most interesting to learn about?

What would you do if you saw one of these in the wild?