'About those flowers on the side of the road'

By Francesca Ramos ‘23

"About those flowers on the side of the road" (From Pennsylvania Wildlife Magazine, adapted for Wyoming Seminary)

"About those flowers on the side of the road" magazine layout

Over the past couple of summers, I have had the opportunity to learn about numerous plants and their purpose in nature. What intrigued me about the plants in our area was 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, and birds. These plants are called invasive because of their vigorous and effective way of taking over the forests and areas surrounding it, like your backyard.

Although it may come as a surprise that Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), a beautiful plant many children pick to give their mother, are poisonous weeds harmful to Pennsylvania's environment. Native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia, this subspecies of wild carrot has been carefully observed to take over too much forest land where trees and other native plants could have grown. If you do not want to see these white, lacey, flowery weeds in your yard, cutting your grass before developing can help eliminate these weeds before they start to grow.

I found two other invasive plants, 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, it does not help the wildlife here in the U.S. Taking over and killing native species of plants that are supposed to flourish and provide shelter and food for the various animals in the area. These shrubs can vary in size and color, depending on what kind of soil they grow. 

Japanese barberry shrubs grow to be quite tall compared to the Japanese stiltgrass. The Japanese stilt grass creates an inhospitable environment for many native species of both animals and plants alike because it changes natural soil conditions. Again, if you do not want these plants in your yard, try to use some mulches, and dive into hoeing and hand weeding.

Although these plants may seem considerably dangerous, they do help individual animals in a few cases. For example, the grouse (Pennsylvania's state bird) uses the Japanese barberry shrub to cover 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. With careful attention and regularly taking out the surplus of invasive species, I believe our forests and animals might have a good chance of survival even with these plants on our land.