The habitats around the Mississippi River are home to numerous invasive plant species that are so successful that they even displace native plants that are in their path. They have the potential to injure in the most direct manner since they rapidly widen their territories and lack natural rivals and predators. The invasive species are a real problem in Mississippi and throughout the world because they:
- out-compete native species of plants
- change the soil
- contribute to erosion
- eliminate habitat for animals and other organisms
More than 350 species of invasive plants are known to occur in Mississippi. Some of the worst invasive plants of Mississippi are:
- Water hyacinth
- Alligator weed
- Japanese honeysuckle
- Tallow tree
- Chinese privet
- Japanese climbing fern
- Chinese wisteria
Kudzu is a climbing, semi-woody, perennial vine that is a member of the pea family. Kudzu can grow up to 50 feet (15 meters) every year. It was planted in Mississippi to stop the state’s severe soil erosion, which afflicted it in the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.
In the summer, kudzu can grow up to a foot daily and engulf telephone poles, buildings, fences, and trees. Kudzu damages buildings and kills trees and other plant life in the understory. Damages from this vine total more than $100 million.
The water hyacinth may be the worst aquatic weed on the planet. It was distributed as a water garden ornamental known for its lovely blossoms, and it has since escaped into marshes and streams all over the world. It is one of the fastest-growing plants known to man, displacing native vegetation, fish, and wildlife. It also interferes with water transportation, hinders recreational fishing, and restricts water intakes at dams that produce hydroelectric power. One hundred twenty-five thousand acres of open water in Florida were formerly covered with up to 200 tons of water hyacinth each acre.
Alligatorweed is becoming a serious problem in south Mississippi, where it is taking over large areas of wetlands that would otherwise be home to native wetland plants. It can grow in both wet and dry fields. Typically, it develops as a mat of entwined plants. Alligatorweed’s expansion has been curbed by a South American leaf beetle that was introduced in the 1980s for biological control, but it has not yet been completely eradicated.
Japanese honeysuckle is a well-known plant in the southern environment that supplies deer and other wildlife with year-round forage. It frequently occurs in disturbed regions, fence rows, and woodland openings.
However, the thick development of this plant diminishes the variety of native species available to wildlife, crowds out native flora, and can slow or kill young trees. Instead of the exotic Japanese honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, Cross Vine, and Coral Honeysuckle are good alternative native vines for home landscaping.
The Chinese tallow tree is well-liked as a landscape tree because of its vibrant fall foliage and rapid development. Due to its lengthy taproot, it spreads swiftly, reproduces freely, and is challenging to contain. Following extensive incursions of wetlands from Texas to Florida, several states are in the process of outlawing the sale of Chinese tallow.
The non-native, invasive grass known as cogongrass is ranked among the “Top 10 Worst Weeds in the World.” It affects a variety of things, including pine productivity and survival, wildlife habitat, outdoor activities, native flora, fire behavior, and site management expenses.
Chinese privet grows in dense thickets along roadsides, fence rows, fields, rights-of-way, and in the bottoms of wooded creeks across the South. These shrubs have multiple branches and usually grow to 10 to 20 feet.
Privet, an olive family member, produces a lot of seeds and swiftly regenerates by root shoots building dense stands. Due to its dense stand formation, it crowds out natural plants and trees, especially hardwoods.
Although the mimosa tree was intended to be an ornamental tree, it escaped cultivation and is now seen growing in many different places throughout the Southeast United States. It faces competition with local species for nutrients, water, and light. It grows next to streams, in forests, and in clearings, as well as by roadsides.
Japanese climbing fern
Native to Asia and Australia, this perennial climbing fern was introduced as an ornamental. It has slender stems resembling a vine, but its above-ground parts are triangular-shaped fronds.
Native flora is displaced and smothered, and it poses a risk of forest fires by acting as a ladder fuel for bushfires to ascend into tree crowns. The climbing fern reproduces by producing spores carried by the wind or sticks to tools, outfits, and animals.
Usually, wisteria grows around old houses. The two wisteria species that have escaped into the eastern United States are Chinese wisteria and Japanese wisteria. When wisteria is well-established, it can be challenging to get rid of and cling to nearby trees and plants for years. They can destroy or alter desirable trees in the landscape.