Invasive plants have spread all over Virginia; Some groups say that needs to stop
Bradford pear trees’ delicate white petals and odor of rotting fish or urine didn’t always signal the start of spring throughout Virginia.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Asia native’s attractive flowers made it increasingly popular, resulting in its rapid spread through the commonwealth, said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation biologist Kevin Heffernan.
But while the trees may be pretty, Heffernan said, they are also invasive. The Bradford pear can thwart the growth of nearby native plants, cause problems for birds that ingest its fruit and lead to infrastructure damage and accidents due to the breakage-prone nature of its heavy limbs.
“Sometimes people in our urbanized society forget that we need to respect the behavior and tendencies of the living things that we are currently moving around the earth willy-nilly,” Heffernan said.
Invasive species are exactly what they sound like: species that aren’t native to a location but can thrive, thereby reproduction. In Virginia, state code further defines them as species “whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Among the potential harms the state has identified are their ability to “damage and degrade crops, pasture and forestlands, clog waterways, spread human and livestock diseases, and destroy street trees.”
Nevertheless, there are currently no laws in place prohibiting the planting, growing or selling of invasive plants in Virginia — which Heffernan said stems from their profitability in nursery and landscaping industries.
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