Did you know that aliens truly exist? They’re even here in Darke County, alien plants and animals, or invasive species, that is!
An invasive species is any species of plant or animal that is not native to a particular area, are usually introduced from other areas, and can cause damage to native plants and animals. A native species is typically defined as a species which has been in the area since or before 1750. Out of more than 2,700 species found in Ohio, less than 100 of these species are classified as invasive, but they can still have a huge impact on the native environment, including displacing rare species, loss of biodiversity, and alteration of soil and water cycles.
One of the most common invasive plants found in this area is honeysuckle, of which two different species are found in Darke County: Amur and Morrow’s honeysuckle. These invasive species of honeysuckle are native to Korea and Japan and were introduced to North America in the late 1800s as ornamental plants. Both Amur and Morrow’s honeysuckle have hollow stems, while the two native species, bush and Canada fly honeysuckle, have solid stems. All honeysuckle plants have alternating leaves that are about an inch to two and a half inches long contained in standing bushes which can be from six to fifteen fall tall. The Amur species of honeysuckle has dark green leaves which end in a long, pointy tip, while Morrow’s honeysuckle has oval shaped leaves. These plants produce small flowers which bloom in the spring, and dark-red to yellow berries in August to October.
Because woods and pastures that have been grazed or otherwise disturbed are more vulnerable to invasion, honeysuckle has made a lot of advancement in this area of Ohio. The fruit that the invasive species of honeysuckle produces is attractive to birds, who help scatter the seeds over a wide area. For light infestations, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends carefully hand-removing the entire plant or repeatedly cutting or mowing during the growing season. For larger infestations, an application of herbicide such as Roundup or AquaNeat on the offending plants may be more helpful. However, if you choose to cut the plant down to the ground, Garlon 4 or Pathfinder, applied to the cut stem, has proved to be the most effective at eliminating the invasive species.
My name is Jessalyn Besecker, and I was the Naturalist Intern for the summer of 2016! I am currently studying biological sciences at Wright State University. During my internship, I got to go camping, kayaking, mountain biking, and zip lining all for the first time! I gained so much experience, and I’m so grateful to the staff at Darke County Parks for letting me absorb some of their knowledge!