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Why Cities Have to Care About Native Plants

Across the U.S., groups are working to fend off invasive species by helping local ones take root.
A house in Toronto landscaped with plants native to the region.
A house in Toronto landscaped with plants native to the region.REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Each year, naturalists across the U.S. go to war with invasive plants. Take lesser celandine, for instance. The delicate yellow petals, which emerge in early spring, belie a resounding—and frustrating—toughness. The plant beats native wildflowers to bloom, and usurps their habitats in the process. As of April 2016, it’s been detected in 25 states; a model from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the USDA estimated that up to 79 percent of land in the U.S. could be hospitable to an infestation.

A naturalist in Washington, D.C. recently told National Geographic about how the weed has choked out nearly 200 acres of the city’s Rock Creek Park. “People say, ‘Why don’t you dig it up?’” he said. “I could dig this up for a thousand years and you would not see anywhere near the end of it.”