Along with the autumnal colors of changing tree leaves, many shrubs and vines also add vivid hues to our landscape this time of year. Some of the most vibrant and recognizable colors of the understory can be attributed to invasive plants, such as fiery burning bush (Euonymusalatus), yellow leaved and red berried bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and the pink-, yellow-, or orange-colored leaves of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii).
Now is a great time of year before plants lose their leaves to take stock of what is in your yard and, if you find that the bush you planted a few years ago before the sale of 33 terrestrial invasive plants were prohibited in Maine, to make a plan to remove invasive plants and replace them with native plants. Invasive plants have no natural checks and balances within our landscape and are successful at outcompeting native plants, which provide greater diversity, shelter, and food sources for native wildlife and pollinators. A list of native plants from the Wild Seed Project can be found here, many of which provide dazzling fall foliage while complementing the ecosystem they are part of. One need not look further than colorful viburnums ranging in size from shrub to small trees, the distinctive bark of the striped maple, or the aptly named Cinnamon Fern to add splashes of fall color that continue to be interesting and beneficial year-round.
Unsure of whether you have an invasive plant in your yard or woods? The State of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry has great invasive online resources and Maine Natural Areas Program put together a handy Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide guide to carry with you.
This fall when you’re planting, transplanting or making plans for next year, take the opportunity to pay attention to the soil in your garden beds and woods to look for clues surrounding your soil health and potential invasive pests that may be lurking beneath the surface. Documented by the state of Maine in Bowdoin, Brunswick, and Topsham since 2020-2021, invasive jumping worms are increasingly being found in yards, gardens, and forests. Jumping worms can dramatically change the soil, giving it a unique texture similar to coffee grounds, which is one way to identify areas where they are likely found a few inches beneath the soil surface. Our typical earthworms play an important role in soil ecology by burrowing and incorporating organic residues and amendments into the soil, enhancing decomposition and promoting nutrient cycling that benefits soil structural development. Jumping worms are found primarily in the topsoil and feast on mulch and strip vital nutrients from topsoil. This kills plants and increases erosion without returning nutrients to the soil, resulting in mortality of plants over time and greater difficulty growing plants, posing a threat both to gardens as well as forests. Recognizable when handled from their namesake “jumping”, these wiggling worms have a pink, smooth collar that also sets them apart from other worms in your soil.
To learn more about invasive jumping worms, learn how to report them if you find them at your home, and read more about how to limit their spread, click here.