Boone County Arboretum
9190 Camp Ernst Road
Union, Kentucky 41091
Phone: (859) 384-4999
Fax: (859) 384-6888

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Quagga mussels, relatives of zebra mussels, are becoming major problems as they invade a body of water. Not only do they out compete native mussels, but they quickly colonize any surface they can including the blades of boat motors. The extra drag decreases the efficiency of the motor, and can cause it to completely shut down. Image courtesy of the US National Park Service.

What Is An Invasive Species?
An invasive species is any species not native to an area, and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause major disturbance and harm to the environment, economy, or public health of that area. Invasive species can be plants, fungi, animals, or diseases.

Why Is This A Problem?
Whether you realize it or not, the problem of invasive species is having a direct effect on your lifestyle. When Johnson grass or Asian soybean rust enters a farmland, the farmer’s crops will have a smaller yield. The process of controlling those problems results in a higher cost for the food you eat. As hydrilla plants and zebra mussels clog boat motors and cooling systems, they increase the cost of operating recreational and commercial boating industries, and the costs are then passed along to you as a consumer. Attacks from Africanized honeybees and red fire ants can ruin picnics and outdoor recreation opportunities in the southern states, possibly even killing the people and animals they attack. The vines of kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle create tripping hazards and may even completely hide a hiking trail. European starlings invade the nesting sites and sometimes also destroy the eggs of many species of native birds we enjoy listening to and watching. Chestnut blight caused a major change in American forests and negatively impacted the recreational and logging industries that depend on those trees. Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer , and Asian longhorn beetle, as well as ornamental pear trees, honeysuckle and garlic mustard, are all poised to create another dramatic decline in our native forests.

Red imported fire ants can aggressively sting people or animals that are near the colony, causing painful white pustules. While not usually fatal to humans, a large number of stings can kill small animals. They also are attracted to electrical equipment such as air conditioner units and traffic light control boxes, where they cause short-circuit problems and equipment failure. Image courtesy of Murray S. Blum, University of Georgia,

There is no way to hide from invasive species. Many estimates indicate that in the United States alone, the combined environmental damages and economic loss due to exotic, invasive species is several billion dollars per year, perhaps as much as $120 billion per year. Ignoring invasive species now only makes future control more difficult and more expensive. As farmers in fields or homeowners in yards, collectively as taxpayers or individually as consumers, every person is somehow affected by these problems and their associated costs.

Just A Few Of The Species Of Concern:






What Can I Do To Help?

Eurasian watermilfoil has been identified as an "aquatic nuisance species" (ANS) by the Kentucky ANS Task Force. It is one of many species of invasive aquatic plants that were probably introduced by improper disposal of aquarium or water garden refuse, and is now threatening waterways across the country. Photo courtesy of Graves Lovell, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,


Homeowners / Small–plot Gardeners

Farmers / Utility Workers / Natural Area Managers–Workers

Moving firewood long distances can also transport emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid, gypsy moth, sudden oak death, and many other harmful insects and diseases contained in that wood. By not moving firewood, and by burning all of it before you leave, you can help prevent the spread of these problems into new areas. Image courtesy of Troy Kimoto, Canadian Food Inspection Agency,

Outdoor Enthusiasts / Hunters / Campers

For More Information:
Visit the website and the National Invasive Species Information Center. The Arboretum has a separate page discussing invasive plants in more detail, and has more plant–specific links on that page.