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Invasive Species

Invasive plants are aggressive species that grow in areas where they do not historically occur. Some were introduced accidentally, while others may have been planted for herbal or medicinal purposes, for soil stabilization and wildlife habitat, or because of their showy flowers, fruit, leaves or bark.

Invasive species are usually characterized by fast growth rates, high fruit production, rapid vegetative spread and efficient seed dispersal and germination. They can displace native plants and animals, reduce plant diversity and negatively affect human recreation and economics.

The most invasive plants in the Metro Parks are:

1. Garlic mustard
2. Honeysuckle
3. Privet hedge
4. Japanese knotweed
5. Narrow-leaved cattail

Garlic mustard is a biennial herb with stalked, triangular-shaped leaves that smell like garlic when crushed. Plants first appear as rosettes of green leaves close to the ground. The following year they reach two to 3.5 feet tall and produce button-like clusters of small white flowers with four petals in the shape of a cross. Slender seed pods are present by June; each contains thousands of seeds per plant. The seeds can be viable in the soil for up to seven years. This non-native plant aggressively monopolizes light, moisture, nutrients, soil and growing space.

VIDEO: Garlic mustard I.D. and control

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Honeysuckle is an attractive, sweet smelling garden vine or shrub, often planted to grow up arbors and fences or used as hedges and borders. The plants produce white, cream or even red flowers and orange or red berries during midsummer, and they can retain their leaves all winter. Unfortunately, discarded vine material and fruits consumed by wild animals help spread honeysuckle into natural areas, where the vines rapidly form a dense groundcover, thereby climbing and strangling herbs, shrubs and small trees.

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Privet hedge, as its name implies, is often used as a yard hedge. It produces clusters of sweet smelling white flowers and dark berries, which are consumed and spread by birds. The shrub is tolerant of shade and has escaped into nearly every wetland and upland habitat in our park district. It forms especially dense monocultures with honeysuckle shrubs in floodplains.

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Japanese knotweed is a large perennial forb (a flowering plant with a non-woody stem) that was originally used to prevent erosion on steep slopes and riparian banks. It spreads by aggressive underground rhizomes and airborne seeds produced in the autumn. Knotweed forms dense bamboo-like colonies along rivers and roadsides preventing anything from growing beneath. It is even capable of slowly invading forests by preventing natural regeneration of older trees.

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Narrow-leaved cattail , once established, invades open wetlands by underground rhizomes and the abundant production of far-ranging airborne seeds in late fall, which are said to remain viable for 100 years or more. The plant hybridized with our native broad-leaved cattail to produce an even more aggressive strain. The new cattail strains often disperse deep into our natural areas and form monocultures that threaten rare species and some of our most diverse wetland systems.


Did You Know?

Ice Age Animals
Mastodons - animals that looked like mammoths or modern-day elephants – once roamed what is now Summit County.

Bike Patrol
To assist park visitors, volunteers patrol the Bike & Hike and Towpath trails April 1 through October 31.

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Leaves and Chipmunk
Metro Parks Contact Info -  975 Treaty Line Road Akron, OH 44313 330-867-5511
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