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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Invasive Shrubs

Japanese barberry.
Calin Darabus (Flickr)
Creative Commons
Japanese barberry.

Fall is a great time to watch birds enjoy the various wild berries, as they get ready for winter and migration. However, some of the plants the birds enjoy are not good characters. There are a number of invasive shrubs that are spread by birds eating the berries and then pooping out the seeds. These shrubs can take over habitats, crowd out natives and make the environment less hospitable for wildlife.

So, who are these culprits? They include Japanese barberry, Japanese honeysuckle, burning bush, buckthorn, autumn olive and multiflora rose.

The first step is to properly identify the invasive plants. Check out descriptions of these and other invasives at the Connecticut Invasive Plant List online. Once you know you have an invasive shrub, it's time to act. Cut down and dig out the roots of these invasives. Try to get as much of the root system as possible since some, such as Japanese barberry, can spread by underground rhizomes. Don't move them to a new location since they may still be fruiting. Let them air dry or chip them on site and watch for seedlings next spring.

Once destroyed, it's important to understand you've also removed a bird food source, too. Invasive shrub berries do have necessary calories that birds need to survive the winter. However, research has shown native shrub berries are higher in fat and a better source of energy.

So, have a plan to replace the invasive shrubs with native berry shrubs such as northern bayberry, blueberry, winter berry, chokeberry and Arrowwood viburnum. You'll give the birds the food they need, and help recreate a healthy ecosystem for all creatures.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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