by Charlene Burgi
Nobody likes a pest—at least nobody that I ever met. Garden pests can come in a variety of forms including insects, deer, rabbits, squirrels and, of course, weeds. What counts as a pest can vary from place to place. A plant that is well behaved in one climate or location may become a problem in another.
Invasive plants can cause many types of problems in our gardens. For starters, they sap the water and nutrients that our other plants need to stay happy and healthy. Worse yet, they can take over an area if left to their own devices, choking out the wanted plants.
Sometimes pests are brought into our garden by our own hands. This includes invasive plants that we unknowingly purchase or acquire from a well-meaning friend. Many years ago, such a friend thought to fill a newly built raised planter box in my backyard while I was on vacation. Unfortunately, this gift also included the roots of an invasive bulb that proved a challenge to eradicate.
| Baneberry (Actaea rubra)
Do you have a plant that just appeared in your garden and isn't familiar to you? It could have arrived as a seed on the wind or dropped from a bird flying by, or carried in on a purchased plant. In fact, this past weekend I found a beautiful berry-bearing plant growing along the creek. The plant was unfamiliar to me and the need to know brought me to one of my favorite online resources: Did you know you can key unknown plants on the CalFlora
website? This website includes photos to help confirm identifications. Check it out, as it can help with early detection of pests, as well as general identification. You might just find the mystery plant is a winner. In this case, I discovered the plant to be baneberry (Actaea rubra
), a toxic plant that thrives in wet, shady areas of a garden. I then double-checked if it is invasive using another great resource, the California Invasive Plant Council
(Cal-IPC) website. Good news: Baneberry didn't fall into that category. This pretty thing is a keeper.
Pest plants are a broad topic—books have been written on the subject. Yet the definition that stands out best for me is: A weed is any plant growing where it’s unwanted. That definition was an eye opener to this gardener. Just be wary of the wanted plants that can escape and become unwanted invaders in other areas!