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Native, or indigenous plants, are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of that region. They occur in communities, meaning they have evolved together with other plants. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species.
Native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought-resistant, low maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Once established, they save time and money by eliminating or significantly reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water, and maintenance.
An invasive plant is a term for a plant species that has been introduced into a local area from other parts of the country or another continent and has become an environmental weed pest. Characteristics of harmful invasive plant species include:
Invasive plants pose a long-term threat to biodiversity, ecosystem stability, and the balance of nature on which all species depend. They spread into natural areas where they crowd out native plants and the wildlife that depend on them. These weeds disrupt ecosystem patterns and processes, such as hydrology, natural plant succession, and soil erosion.
Invasive plants are difficult to control and can be a real nuisance in landscaped areas. Japanese Bamboo, for example, spreads aggressively both by seed and vegetatively and is extremely difficult to manage.
Invasive species can interfere with the enjoyment of public and private conservation lands. Their tall growth habitat and ability to decrease the diversity of wild areas by creating a monoculture (solid stands where nothing else can grow), can greatly diminish scenic views and vistas. Phragmites are just one example, commonly seen impeding the view of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes.
Harmful invasive plants have the potential to adversely alter the ecological balance of the Cape's sensitive and globally unique coastal plain ponds. Freshwater ponds are threatened by the invasion of exotic pondweeds. One such weed, hydrilla, has the potential to completely choke ponds, making it impossible for people to swim and fish. Therefore, invasive species have a negative impact, both on aesthetics and recreational activities.
Further introduction of invasive plants and a failure to manage invasive plant populations will result in the reduction of biological diversity. In addition, it will have adverse impacts on ponds and marshes by altering significant ecosystems and habitats. Ultimately, invasive plants pose a threat to fisheries, outdoor recreation, tourism, and the character of the Cape. See a list of invasive plant species for Massachusetts and Cape Cod.