Invasive species: Where to Start? A report from the Central Indiana Land Trust

By Grace van Kan White River steward, Central Indiana Land Trust

“Is it invasive?” “Should I get rid of it?” “What’s the best way to eradicate it?” “What should I put there instead?”

Our stewardship team gets a lot of great questions about invasive species!

First off, what do we mean by “invasive”? Invasives species can be plants, animals or insects. An invasive species is native to another part of the world but has been introduced to a new environment, intentional or not. Often, invasive species are transported by people and can be brought over in nursery shipments from overseas.

Many invasive terrestrial plants were introduced to North America as ornamentals, so you’ve probably seen them around.

Invasive species have the potential to outcompete native species and eradicate them from their natural habitat. Native animals and insects rely on native aquatic and terrestrial plants for habitat and sustenance. Therefore, when native plants recede from the landscape, it can have devastating effects down the line.

Conversely, removing an invasive can have far-reaching benefits! Our team has experienced this firsthand – for example, at Meltzer Woods, an old growth forest in Shelbyville. With the removal of wintercreeper, we’ve seen the return of spring ephemerals like trilliums and jack-in-the-pulpit, as well as rarer putty root orchids.

Some invasive species were commonly used for landscaping in the past (and sometimes they still are). These problematic plants include:

  • Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)
  • Callery pear (also called Bradford pear) (Pyrus calleryana)
  • Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
  • Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
  • Autumn olive (Elaegnus umbellata)
  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

So what’s the best course of action for landowners when it comes to dealing with invasives? You can find a comprehensive species list on the Department of Natural Resources invasive species web page. For more hands-on education, the State of Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management is an excellent jumping off point. Here, you can learn about invasive plant species throughout Indiana and find information on your local Cooperative Invasives Species Management Area. This is a local group or partnership that collectively manages invasive species regionally, usually by county.

Get acquainted with your own property by having a landowner survey completed by one of the Cooperative Invasive Management team’s regional specialists. During a landowner survey, an experienced individual will walk the property with the landowner (or land manager) to identify invasive species, recommend native species, and answer any questions.

Also check out Indiana Native Plant Society, especially for more information on which native plants you can use to replace invasives and even your lawn.

In short, the best way to prevent the spread of invasive species is to eradicate them where they are and remove the seed-producing individuals. When planning a new landscaping project, make sure that you are only choosing native species. And, of course, support the groups restoring native habitats across Central Indiana.

An effective way to do that while learning about invasives is to join our stewardship crew during a volunteer day at one of the Land Trust’s preserves. Check out conservingindiana.org/events for upcoming work days where you can help improve the health of forests and other natural habitats.

Headquartered in the Old Northside, the Central Indiana Land Trust stewards nature preserves throughout the central third of the state. For more information or to find a preserve to explore, visit conservingindiana.org.

Photo above: Grace Van Kan removes white honeysuckle from White River Bluffs.