Beware of invasive plants this holiday season

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(WIAT) — The frigid temperatures may have you wanting to get your home in the holiday spirit. But, before you start planting or buying plants that make look festive, be careful you aren’t adding an invasive plant to your landscape. 

On Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve’s more than 1000 acres, conservationists say they have pretty much every invasive plant you can imagine. One of those plants is nandina, also known as Heavenly Bamboo.

“It is often found around old homes. Great fall color. Those bright red berries are really attractive. But, they also spread very quickly and can take over,” Conservation Director Jamie Nobles said. 

A school group spent a full morning at Ruffner working to get rid of the nandina plant. If you have an invasive species around your home, it’s best to get rid of the entire plant, roots and all. Invasive plants can decrease the biodiversity by taking over the under story of a forest. The berries on the nandina plant are also dangerous.

“One of the problems with this berry, it’s actually a toxic berry that birds will eat and it’s not good for them. Other than that, it can really spread like other invasive species really can and take over a certain area,” Nobles said. 

There are alternatives to planting nandina to still get the festive look you are going for.

“If you are wanting something that has bright red berries, especially in the winter time, there are some native hollies that have that same bright red berry that if you are looking for that type of thing. If you are looking for something with fall colors, there’s also some native blueberry species that have a similar fall color as well and can stay lower like the nandina can be, like a low shrub,” Nobles said.

Ruffner has a native plant sale where you can find plants that would add to the invasive plant problem. Here’s a helpful list of some of the native plants that are safe to plant in our area.

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