We are often told that every cloud has a silver lining, but when it comes to invasive exotic species, it seems that the proverbial silver lining is vanishingly thin. Invasives like kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, tree-of-heaven, and oh-so-many others, seem ubiquitous, crowding out native plants and altering all manner of ecological interactions. Like a rock tossed in a placid pond, the negative impact of an exotic species can ripple throughout the entire ecological community. Further, populations of invasive plants can be so large and so extensive across the countryside that complete eradication is simply out of the question. The genie is truly out of the bottle. What to do? I have pondered this question for quite a few years and I have reached a few conclusions. One is that despite the magnitude of the challenge, we who cherish native plants should never concede victory to the exotics. But we also must realize that complete restoration of totally natural vegetation is not at all likely, either. The footprint of our own species is just too great for that to happen. But I believe we can, with perseverance and hard work, make significant improvements to pieces of the world that matter to us most, places like our own backyards, or, with proper permission, places like parks and natural areas open to the public. Unfortunately, the zealous idealism required to defeat such a tough and resilient foe can wear thin before the natural regenerative powers of the invasive plant are exhausted. It surely would help if there were additional motivations to spur us on and to continue hacking away at the resilient exotic horde.

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Copyright © 2006 Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Bulletin of the Virginia Native Plant Society 25:3 (2006), 1, 5.

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