In our area of New England, there is a bounty of fruit this year, perhaps due to plentiful spring rain or from plants’ natural response to the dearth of fruit last year. Apples, sumacs, rosehips, barberries, winterberries and that rapidly invasive bittersweet, all are simply loaded. It is good news for robins, bluebirds and cedar waxwings that eat mostly fruit over winter. These birds used to migrate south but many no longer do, relying on this fruit to sustain them. Birds digest the fruit but seeds pass through, helping to spread the plants. It’s a win/win for plant and bird. Unfortunately, many of these plants are considered invasive.
One response is resistance: we remove invasives where we find them. It is a monumental task as many have a couple hundred year head start, even wild apple trees are not native. It is not likely that we will ever eliminate invasive plants entirely. Awareness is important so we do not propagate species known to be invasive. With educated choices, we can try to do our best.
Second is acceptance: to me, the horse is out of the barn, and with each passing year the birds disseminate more seeds that create yet more plants. A Penn State University study has indicated that birds are adapting to invasives and have come to depend on them for food and shelter. To remove invasives in a broad sweep would impact their reproduction. This is the way the world has always been: species come and go, the only difference is that humans have accelerated this to a rather alarming degree.
Why not use invasive berries to make arrangements for the holidays? A wreath can be made of bittersweet vine by wrapping and weaving it around and around itself in a circle until it looks full and pleasing to the eye. Add feathers, pinecones, anything that strikes your fancy or weave in evergreens to give a fuller look. Hang or use as a centerpiece with candles.
Use heavy gloves to gather and snap off thorns of multiflora rosehips, then pack stems tightly in a clear glass vase. Add sprigs of pine for a festive holiday look.
Experiment by grouping different berries together: orange bittersweet and blue privet or red barberries and pink-red autumn olive. When these decorations pass, throw them in the trash as opposed to outside over a bank or in the woods. Look at it as a win/win. You decorate your home while eliminating invasive species from the landscape.
On the other hand, if you do use native plants to decorate, after the holidays put them in a birdfeeder or throw them where you’d want more to grow. Hopefully, the birds instead will be happily spreading native sumac and winterberry.
- Gardener’s Journal: Autumn Olive is a challenging species (wickedlocal.com)