Paving the Way For Invasive Species

Horticulturalists help bring beauty to our gardens and landscapes by introducing plants from other parts of the world and breeding them for aesthetic characteristics. In the past, not enough attention was paid to the potential for these plants to become invasive. After several incidents of horticultural plants invading the landscape, horticulturalists are more aware of the potential harm and evaluate the possibility that an introduced plant will become invasive.

Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, is a European Plant that was introduced to North America as an ornamental in the 1800s. Used as a hedgerow plant in landscapes, buckthorn produces berries that are spread by birds and forms impenetrable hedgerows in the forest. It thrives as an understory plant where it displaces native vegetation, destroys wildlife habitat, and prevents growth of native tree saplings. Currently there are prohibitions against planting buckthorn in North America and efforts are made to remove or manage invasive buckthorn populations.

Soybean Aphids

Soybean Aphids on Buckthorn Leaves

It is Fall in Indiana and an invasive insect is in the air. Soybean aphids, an invasive pest first detected early this century is leaving senescing soybeans in search of an overwintering host. The primary soybean aphid overwintering host is buckthorn. Without the introduction of buckthorn and its invasion of the landscape, soybean aphid would have had far more difficulty locating overwintering hosts and likely have been far less of a pest problem or even would have failed to establish. Decisions to import buckthorn plants over a century ago, have altered the North American ecosystem in a way that makes it more favorable for soybean aphid. Who could have predicted that planting a hedgerow in the 1840s could make a major contribution to crop pests a century and a half later?

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Invasive Species. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Paving the Way For Invasive Species

  1. argylesock says:

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Here’s a North American perspective on our alder buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Over there, it’s become invasive and it provides food for a pest called the soybean aphid (Aphis glycines Matsumura). That insect is another alien species in North America. Meanwhile, here in its homeland, the alder buckthorn is important as a food plant for the brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) and the tiger moth (Arctia cuja)

  2. Pingback: Making a Transition | Living With Insects Blog

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