Monday, April 18, 2011

Bloodroot vs. Godzilla

Something so delicate and beautiful recently enraged me. Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is poking it's head out of the ground, at first shy and ruffled up, and then slowly unfurling it's unique shaped leaves and exposing a small white bud that transforms itself into a stunning flower. These pix are from my garden:

As beautiful as it is, you might not notice it under the tall and bright daffodils and tulips that are planted in every single garden that exists. Sadly, you won't see it in many gardens nor will you see it much in nature, although it is native to the Northeast American woods.

Seeing the little Bloodroot reminds me of how precious woodland flowers are and my commitment to native plants redoubles. Why is this plant endangered? Why does no one plant this in their garden? How come no one even knows what this plant is? This is when I start getting upset.

I was in Vermont with my mom a few springs ago, and I remember we saw a couple of white trilliums and excitedly started looking for more when I saw a mass of Japanese Barberry, Berbis thunbergii. Once my eyes took in the shape and look of the barberry I realized that it was everywhere in the woods. They had formed thickets. No wonder I wasn't finding many spring ephemerals, many of them are shaded out by this incredibly invasive shrub! Japanese Barberry is one of the first shrubs to leaf out in spring, so it prevents the badly needed sunlight from reaching the forest floor where our little woodland gems are waiting to sprout. Barberry is as ubiquitous as boxwoods in most landscaped gardens so few nurseries have ventured to stop selling it yet it should really be illegal to sell or to plant it (as it is in Canada).

From Home and Garden Ideas:
Although charming, with its small, red berries, Japanese barberry is one of the most invasive plant species in the north east part of the United Space, especially in areas like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.....This plant is considered invasive because it quickly takes over forests and wipes out the native plants that make up the understory of the forest. This inevitably leads to a disruption in the availability of food for animals that depended on the species of plants the barberry displaced. Besides wiping out food supplies, the barberry plant also alters nitrogen levels, pH levels, and destroys certain biological activities that occurs in the soil. Because they can grow in less than ideal conditions and are drought-tolerant, it gives them an edge compared to native plants.

According to the Connecticut Botanical Society: Japanese barberry is an invasive plant, and probably one of the most destructive invasive plants in Connecticut. It can form thick stands that exclude nearly all native plants. The seeds are spread over long distances by birds.

Sad but true. See these forests, forever altered:

and there's more.....From Scientific American:Link
...And here’s the kicker for those of you who’d still consider planting it in your backyard: The prevalence of ticks infected with the Lyme disease–causing spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) is greater in areas with Japanese barberry than areas without....

If you're interested in reading more about the connection between Japanese Barberry and Lyme's Disease click here: Barberry, Bambi, and Bugs

If nothing else, realize that not all plants that are green are necessarily good. Invasive species don't just shade out cute flowers, they effect the whole food chain and our health. Please don't buy one this season and tell your nursery you would appreciate it if they stopped selling it!