Southington event targets spread of invasive species  

reporter photo

SOUTHINGTON — The Southington Land Conservation Trust is holding an annual weeding day in an effort to prevent the spread of harmful flora.

“They all seem to be very aggressive,” land trust President Val Guarino said. “They crowd out the native plants...”

Volunteers and land trust members will be meeting at the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail near the Burritt Street parking lot on Saturday at 9 a.m. to remove invasive species, as well as collect trash along the trail. Some of the most prevalent invasive species include mugwort, garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed.

It’s become necessary for volunteers to return to the same spots to remove the invasive species over and over because of how prolific some can be.

“The garlic mustard seeds can stay in the ground able to grow for 10 years and each plant can make up to one thousand seeds,” Guarino said.

According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a non-native species is considered invasive if it can "exhibit an aggressive growth habit and can out-compete and displace native species."

As invasive species crowd out native plants, it deprives insects of their habitats and causes fauna populations to plummet. As insect populations decline, it reduces the food available to animals up the food chain, impacting the entire ecosystem.

To counter the effect, the land trust has been helping with a pollinator pathway being planted along the linear trail by local organizations. In Southington, they’ve planted five beds with native flora such as gray birch trees and chokeberry bushes, which provide food and habitat for pollinators.

Though it’s still too soon to see an impact on insect populations — the trust only started the
pollinator pathway along the linear trail last year — Guarino said the plants made it through an especially dry year and are getting established in the soil.

Guarino said much of the invasive flora are planted by residents on their property. They are often unaware of the damage the plants can wreak as they spread. 

“Some of this stuff has been planted intentionally as a solution,” Guarino said. “ … The knotweed, for example, was planted for erosion control and the garlic mustard was a … herb brought over by European settlers.”

One of the best ways residents can support the land trust’s efforts is to avoid planting invasive species. An added benefit, Guarnio said, is that native plants are adapted to the local environment and will require less watering and fertilizing.

At Winterberry Gardens, a nursery and garden supply store on West Street, customers have increasingly been interested in native plants and have shown an interest in environmentally conscious gardening, said Chief Financial Officer Bryan Stolz. Their stocks of native plants are clearly labeled and staff will help customers find plants that are environmentally friendly.

“Having things that are native and near native also make for a much higher success rate in planting .. so going with native really improves the odds that the homeowner will plant something that is going to thrive and survive,” Stolz said.

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian

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