How to Protect Trees from Invasive Species

If you’ve ever had a tree taken out by a pest or another plant out-competing it, you know how sad it is to lose a beautiful part of your yard to an invasive species. Plant, animal, and disease invaders are often more successful at killing trees than the natural dangers they usually face.

Learn how you can protect your yard from invasive species.

What Are Invasive Species?

Invasive species are plants, insects, or animals that are non-native to the ecosystem and likely to cause economic/environmental damage or harm human health.

Some species can be introduced to a new area without causing harm, making them exotic, but non-invasive. If your yard has a Norway spruce, Japanese maple, or any of several palm species, you’re enjoying non-native species that are non-invasive (at least in certain states).

How Do Invasive Species Affect Biodiversity?

Invasive species can out-compete native plants and animals, decimating local populations. They can even cause extinctions, completely altering habitats in a way that makes them unlivable for certain native species. This, in turn, affects every species higher up the food chain by removing or limiting one of their food sources.

Certain invasive pests don’t only affect trees but also pass disease to humans or sting or bite humans and other native animals. Invasive plants provide habitats for harmful invasive pests or cause allergic reactions themselves. Some even carry toxins that can make people sick.

How Do Invasive Species Spread?

Invasive species are most commonly spread by humans. Sometimes, humans plant exotic trees or plants without realizing how much damage they can do and how far they’ll spread. Other times, insect eggs, fungus spores, and plant seeds are transported in firewood, shipping materials, or as hitchhikers on vehicles and clothing. Some states have restrictions on transporting materials like firewood, to limit the spread of harmful species.

The Effect of Invasive Species on Your Trees

The effects differ by the tree and by invasive species, but invasive plants, trees, and diseases can often devastate native tree populations.

Invasive Plants: A Deadly Coverup

There are several kinds of invasive vines that kill trees by entirely covering them and blocking out the sun, like kudzu, or circling and strangling the tree, like wisteria. Other plants, like Japanese honeysuckle, completely cover the ground. They choke out seedlings and cut the bark of older trees. Invasive plants can also reduce groundwater levels, degrade soil quality, increase the risk of wildfire, and destroy forage and grazing for animals.

What to Do: If you suspect you have invasive plants in your yard, it’s time to act fast. Invasive species become harder to eradicate the longer they’re left to grow. Even just a few missed far-reaching roots can lead to regrowth. Invasive species should always be removed by a professional.

Invasive Pest Species: Unchecked Eating

Insects and fungi can devastate a tree when there are no natural predators to keep them in check. Of the 15 most invasive pests in the US, a whopping nine are diseases while the remaining six are insects that snack on different parts of the tree. The emerald ash borer is among the most damaging pests in the US. This Asian beetle has caused the single-largest loss of biomass, killing tens of millions of ash trees across the US.

There are hundreds of different invasive species. Check with your state and local environmental agencies to learn which ones affect your area.

What to Do: Regular tree inspections by professional arborists help catch signs of an infestation or the resulting disease early. Keep an eye on your tree between inspections for signs like egg masses, holes in tree bark, insect-bitten leaves, dieback, or wilting leaves. If your tree is suffering from pests or illness, schedule insect and disease management services to treat and control the infestation. If you find a confirmed infestation, report it to your state environmental agency.

Invasive Tree Species: Competing for Space

Many trees are brought over as ornamental species, then spread uncontrolled into local forests. Invasive trees may not provide the right habitat for the animals you would normally see in your yard. In local forests, they can push out native trees, taking over the area without providing a benefit to the ecosystem. Invasive tree species can cause severe harm to native trees. Examples of invasive species include:

  • Tree-of-heaven: Hosts the invasive Spotted Lanternfly.
  • White poplar: Overcrowds and chokes out other trees.
  • Black locust: Invasive in some states and native to the southeast and Appalachia, it over-shades where it’s planted.
  • Norway maple: Displaces native trees and blocks sunlight from other plants.

What to Do: A trained, local arborist will know what trees should and shouldn’t be in your yard. If they identify a harmful tree that needs to go, schedule tree removal to make room for native or non-harmful trees. Certain trees have pervasive root systems that can resprout a tree if left in the ground. Comprehensive stump grinding can get rid of even the worst offenders.

Protecting Your Trees with Expert Know-how

If you’re struggling against invasive species, you need backup! Each independently owned and operated Monster Tree Service location has the expert knowledge to identify and address invasive species in your yard.

We can apply treatments for pests and diseases and support your trees through their recovery or remove trees that shouldn’t be in your yard. Contact your local Monster Tree Service today.