Late April and May starts the annual spring planting season in Northern Ohio. May 10 is normally the frost-free date for Wood County; however, the catch 22 is frost can occur after the 10th 10% of the time.

When planning spring plantings, avoid planting invasive plants.

In September 2014, the Ohio Genial Assembly granted the Ohio Department of Agriculture the exclusive authority to regulate invasive plant species. Under the law, invasive plants are defined as plant species that are not native to Ohio whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health as determined by scientific studies.

Invasive species that Ohio has endured is the invasive Emerald Ash Borer, scientific name Agrilus planipennis, that has killed our native Ash, scientific name Fraxinus spp. trees. If you enjoy fishing in Ohio, then you have most likely have dealt with the invasive Dreissena polymorpha or Zebra mussel and Dreissena bugensis or Quagga Mussel. These mussels clog municipal water-intake pipes and motors on boats requiring costly cleanup and prevention.

Another invasive is the Lonicera spp. or Bush Honeysuckle. These plants are causing Ohio’s state bird, Cardinalis cardinalis or cardinal, to be less genetically fit, an Ohio State University study reported.

The non-native shrubs produce less-nutritious berries than those of displaced native dogwoods and highbush cranberries. Male cardinals that eat the inferior berries end up less healthy but keep their trademark bright red color, which normally tells a female that they will make a quality mate. But in this case, due to their diet, they will not. When females choose these vivid but secretly weaker males, the “survival of the fittest” reproductive strategy gets disrupted. Cardinals nesting in bush honeysuckles also fledged 20% fewer young, another OSU study found, leading the study’s authors to call the plants “ecological traps.”

A common landscape plant, the Japanese barberry scientific name Berberis spp., is also considered an invasive. They are excellent choices for dry, tough environments. However, the seed of the barberries is dispersed by birds and other berry-feeding animals, sometimes over great distances.

When the seed lands in a wooded area or forested area, it becomes invasive. Upon germination, the barberries create a dense, more humid environment in our forests and woodlots. This change leads to big increases in the number of ticks and mice, a Connecticut study found. Ticks vector diseases with the two most common in Ohio being Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. White-footed mice are the primary hosts for the ticks. Our forests and woodlots become major tick infested areas.

Another landscape plant, the Bradford Pear or flowering pear tree, is now considered an invasive. In Ohio it will be considered illegal for nurseries to sell Pyrus calleryana, common name(s) callery pear and bradford pears, effective January 2023.

The callery pear in the landscape has an interesting history.

At one time American Elms scientific name Ulmus americana was a popular tree in Ohio landscapes. Ophiostoma ulmi or Dutch Elm Disease is an invasive disease that was first identified in Minnesota in 1961. With the rapid decline of the Elms, Fraxinus spp. and Pyrus calleryana ,were planted as substitutes for the elms. These were ideal substitutes as they grew in the same types of soils as the elms.

In Wood County, the Ash and Pears tolerated with success our heavy clay soils. The Fraxinus spp. in Ohio have been dying out caused by the Agrilus planipennis an invasive insect discovered in Michigan in 2002. In our landscapes as the Fraxinus spp. died out they were commonly replaced with Pyrus calleryanas.

The Pyrus calleryanas are being dispersed or spread by birds and other berry-feeding animals, sometimes over great distances. When the seed lands in an area that is not being cultivated or part of our residential or commercial landscapes, it germinates and grows taking over the area. The trees then outcompete our native plants that would be there otherwise. These areas include road rights-of-ways, abandoned fields and many natural areas including wetlands. It is interesting how one invasive disease the Dutch elm disease has created a devastating domino effect in landscapes.

Invasive species cause negative effects in several ecosystems, said Marne Titchenell, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist.

“They disrupt our natural areas in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest is by reducing biodiversity, which is key to keeping our ecosystems, functioning in a self-sustaining way,” she said. “Healthy ecosystems provide us with many of the things we enjoy about the outdoors — wildlife, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, walks through the woods, wildflower hikes, timber production, forest products, and clean air and water, to name just a few.”

For a list of Ohio Invasive Plant list regulated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture visit https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/invasive-pests/invasive-plants

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