Illegal Aliens at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

(Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post, June 10-16, 2017)

I’m not talking about humans.  In fact, Lathrop has recently joined with other Valley residents to help welcome immigrants fleeing danger and oppression in other countries.

But  illegal alien PLANTS are a different story.  Some alien plants, having left behind the enemies and competitors that control them in their native lands, have overtaken woods and fields throughout the U.S., and have shoved out our native plants.  This is bad because these aliens did not co-evolve with our native wildlife, so they do not as fully provide the food and cover that our native birds and other wildlife need. Because these plants threaten our native plants and wildlife, many states, including Massachusetts, have declared certain alien invasive plants illegal to sell or propagate.

For example, Lathrop’s landscaping has many (now illegal) burning bushes, also called winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus). Their seeds are sprouting in our woods on both campuses. This internet photo shows a woods taken over by winged  euonymus.  The second photo shows winged euonymus coming into our Lathrop woods in 2014.  Since then, the Land Conservation Committee, with grants, resident donations, and thousands of hours by resident volunteers and by our contractor, has removed hundreds of  winged euonymus bushes from what we call our “free fifty” acres of forest–13 acres on the north campus and about 40 on the east. The same Lathrop spot you see in the second photo is now free of large winged euonymus bushes, though volunteers continue to remove hundreds of little seedlings that still arise.

However, the winged euonymus bushes in our Lathrop landscaping continue to contribute to the problem. The law does not force us to remove the illegal aliens that are already in place.  However, as Lathrop replaces dead or unhealthy plants or installs new landscaping, we have an opportunity to put in the native plants that can look as neat and well-tended as any alien shrub, and that also support our birds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife.

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