Invasive Plants and Why They Matter to MCHT

Almost anywhere on the planet, collections of plants, animals, fungi, and other microorganisms have coevolved in balanced systems that ensure the survival of all and the domination of none.

So what happens when a species from another part of the world is abruptly added to the mix? Because local species don’t always have systems for keeping newcomers in check, they may potentially spread, overtake native species, and throw a whole ecosystem out of whack.

One set of invasive species—plants—are especially noticeable in Maine during the summer months. “MCHT’s stewardship staff could spend all day, every day combating invasive plants,” says MCHT land steward Amanda Devine. “Obviously, that’s not possible.”

So, the organization’s general approach is one of prioritization: know what invasive plants are present on a property, remove small to moderate infestations, respond immediately to new infestations, and monitor regularly.

In some instances, invasive plants have gotten so out of hand, and the quality of habitat in a given place has become so poor, that it becomes necessary for MCHT to invest a lot of time and money into restoration. That might mean bringing in heavy equipment to remove all vegetation, applying limited amounts of herbicide to invasive re-growth, and either replanting or relying on soil seed banks to allow native plants to return.

When it comes to the use of herbicides, Amanda says, “The risk of inadequate action against invasives outweighs the risk to the environment and to human health caused by herbicide use in this very limited, highly targeted way. Its careful use is critical to maintaining biodiversity on the Maine coast.”

Anyone who owns or cares for land in Maine can do their part to beat back invasive plants and help our native plants and animals survive. To start, learn more about the invasive plants found in this region. For tips on managing them check out the Winning the War on Weeds pamphlet, which Amanda helped create.

“If we lose our native plants, we lose the insects, we lose the birds,” says Amanda. “Imagine a symphony orchestra that keeps losing instruments. Eventually all you’re left with is a single violin and a high hat. We do not want that for the Maine coast.”