There are many plants here in New England that have become established parts of the landscape. They’re so established, in fact, that they’re practically natives. Unfortunately, they’re not actually natives and in some cases they’re invasive. These “almost natives” frequently appear in places you’d expect natives to turn up; abandoned fields, roadside drainage ditches, along waterways or lakes, and even along roadsides. In the background they flourish, to the point where they just seem like they belong there.
Perhaps one of the most common of these plants is Hemerocallis fulva, frequently referred to as the “ditch lilly.” This daylily appears all over roadsides throughout New England and is also planted in gardens. Colonists brought this plant with them from Europe and it quickly escaped from their gardens. The tuberous root system is quite tenacious and will thoroughly settle into an area. It will appear near old abandoned house foundations, in cemeteries, and I’ve seen clumps of it happily growing in fairly shady areas along dirt roads. In some locations it is quite invasive and seems to belong, but it’s not a native.
This next plant appears in wet areas including spots where the plant is partially submerged during the growing season. Yellow Flag Iris, or Iris pseudodacorus, turns up wherever there is moist soil. In some cases, the plant has become invasive, but at the same time it almost seems to belong where it is growing. Again, this is a plant once frequently planted as a garden ornamental. The native habitat for this iris is actually Europe and it also turns up in Asia and northwest Africa. Because it can pull pollutants out of the water through its tuberous root system, it was used as a natural water treatment filter. Unfortunately, this plant is hideously invasive in some locations, but at the same time has become so commonly seen it looks almost like it belongs. It is, alas, not quite a native.
Sometimes, the best intentions can lead to major problems in the plant world. Frequently planted as a food source for birds, Russian Olive or Elaeagnus angustifolia, has become a major pest. It is incredibly invasive as the seeds are readily spread by birds. At the same time, the plant has been around long enough so that it almost seems like a native. I’ve seen massive stands of it growing along highways and it appears so often I almost don’t notice it any more. The foliage is a silvery grey color and the flowers are small and yellow.
There are many other plants that fall into this category of “not quite a native” including Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis, which I’ve mentioned before. Purple loosestrife, or Lythrum salicaria, is seen all along waterways here in the southern part of New England and I’ve seen it appearing in southern Vermont and above Portland Maine. Like the other plants mentioned, these often invasive plants have become ubiquitous and have settled in to the point where they almost belong here. Efforts to eradicate some of these plants continue and hopefully success will be had before the actual native plants are lost entirely. At the same time the landscape has been so altered by these plants that they’ve almost become the new “natives.”
For this post I double checked my memory using: Wikipedia and www.plantnative.org.
Arrowwood Viburnum Flower
When I took the picture of the Arrowwood Viburnum fruit, the weather had been unseasonably warm after an initial cold period. The fruits stayed on the plants and actually fermented. Birds weren't taking the berries due to this, and the area was filled with the scent of earthy, wine like, fermentation.