Posted January 28, 2016 by Rachel Smith
Invasive Species have no boundaries, do not care about borders, and they aren’t picky. They thrive in high elevation ecosystems, on slopes of hills and mountains, alongside roadways, in state land, fed land, and yes, in your backyard. You may not think about it much, but the flora and fauna in the forest right now (this very minute), are affecting your yard and your livelihood. Reciprocally, what is in your back yard can affect the forest.
How do invasive species impact the forest? They cause erosion, harm wildlife, displace beneficial species, and cost a lot of money and labor.
How do invasive species impact your yard? They cause erosion, harm wildlife, displace beneficial species, and cost a lot of money and labor.
That fence bordering your property means nothing to invasive species. They will sneak in or out, right in front of your eyes. And while removing invasive species from the forest is mostly left up to conservationists, foresters, and biologists, you can help to stop the spread, starting right in your backyard by making pono planting decisions.
By choosing native or non-invasive plants, you are not only making yard work easier on your self, but you are also helping to protect the forest from invasive ornamentals that can easily escape your yard and into the forest. Unfortunately, so many of the tropical species that are commonly sought after for their beauty or uniqueness, are considered invasive. African Tulip, Wedelia, Lantana, Australian Tree Fern, Blue Sky Vine, and the Autograph tree, are all highly desirable because they are beautiful and grow so easily. However these plants, among many others, are known to aggressively spread in the forest.
Do you have one of these in your yard?
Yep, Kauai is eroding. Ditches like this will only continue to get worse. With their shallow root systems, invasive plants are actually one of the worst things to grow on an island where it rains almost every day. Native plants have adapted to this eroding environment, and evolved to thrive here over the course of thousands of years. Read more about the impacts of erosion on Kauai here. Want to stop erosion in your yard? Take out any invasives around gutters or where there is heavy rain flow, and replace with natives or non-invasive ground covers. Want to fill in that ditch that is always collecting water? Plant a rain garden!
Rain gardens are attractive, low maintenance, and help improve water quality. They prevent storm runoff contaminated with pet or feral animal waste, chemicals, or bacteria from settling in your lawn, as well as from flowing into the ocean and polluting reefs. See a picture of a rain garden here. Rain gardens can range from elaborate to simple, but are always planted with beautiful native plants.
There is a simple tutorial on wikihow that explains how to create a rain garden, but here are the basics: Choose the lowest part of your property, or the place that all your storm water seems to pool. You will want to dig up the area a bit, make the soil softer and add compost. At the lowest point, plant natives that can handle standing water. As you plant your way up the incline use plants that increasingly become less tolerant of water. The highest point of your rain garden should be planted with fairly drought tolerant species. An all-native garden is best, but planting species that are simply non-invasive will suffice. Like any newly planted landscape, you may need to tend to it quite often for the first few months to year, but over time, your rain garden will be self-sufficient – a great, low maintenance, non-invasive alternative to that ugly, muddy ditch in your yard! Your rain garden will naturally fertilize itself by collecting storm runoff, while also serving as one more benefactor in supporting ocean health. And, by planting native over invasive, you are protecting the forest from escapees, and supporting the native insects and birds!
The following links provide additional resources about rain gardens and how to make your own.
Also, here is a list of native plants that would be great to incorporate into your rain garden. Note: these are only some suggestions. Do not limit yourself to just these!
Water retaining plants (zone 1 – wet)
- Sedge – Makaloa, Cyperus laevigatus
- Ground Cover – ‘Ae‘ae, Bacopa monnieri
Drainage plants (zone 2 – mesic)
- Grass – Uki Uki, Dianella sandwicensis (beautiful blue fruits)
- Sedge – Ahu‘awa, Cyperus javanicus
- Fern – Kupukupu, Nephrolepis cordifolia
- Fern – Palapalai, Microlepia strigosa
Drought tolerant plants (zone 3 – transistion)
- Tree – Loulu, Pritchardia spp.
- Tree – Koai‘a, Acacia koaia
- Tree – Ohi‘a Lehua, Metrosideros macropus (grows best at higher elevations)
- Shrub – Maiapilo, Capparis sandwichiana (lovely scent)
- Shrub – any native Hibiscus
- Shrub – Pohinahina, Vitex rotundifolia
- Shrub – Naupaka, Scaevola taccada
- Ground Cover – Naio, Myoporum sandwicense