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Nov. 27, 2006

Smith College to Remove Invasive Plants from Campus

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. –  “Little Shop of Horrors” it is not. But Smith College has its own species of fierce flora to contend with.

The college will soon do battle with a group of non-native trees, shrubs and vines that suck the life out of native species by taking their moisture, sunlight, nutrients and space. Identified as invasive to this region by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the non-native species are aggressive.

“It is our responsibility to show leadership in environmental stewardship by removing the species that we have that are on the state's list,” said Michael Marcotrigiano, director of the Botanic Garden. “Smith is part of a national trend of responsible colleges.”

As environmental damage from invasive exotics became apparent in recent years, Massachusetts and a handful of other states enacted laws prohibiting their sale and distribution. The local list includes 85 species. 

Sleuthing on Smith’s 125-acre campus turned up a few of the those on the list: Norway maple; tree of heaven; amur cork tree; winged euonymus; Japanese barberry; Morrow’s honeysuckle; Japanese honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet.

Smith recently began removing smaller species, but eradication of larger plants is expected to take several years, said Marcotrigiano. Anything that is removed will be replaced with non-invasive vegetation.

The fierce flora did not crop up overnight. For centuries, nurseries, botanic gardens and plant enthusiasts have been collecting and displaying plants from around the world and, as a result, exotics were introduced into commercial trade far from their native soil, said Marcotrigiano.

However, not all non-native species pose a danger to the local ecosystem. The number of non-native species that are classified as invasive represent only a fraction of the non-native offerings maintained by the Smith Botanic Garden.

But those species that are aggressive never rest. Even after Smith banishes its stock, the campus will not be safe from invasion. Seeds from plants located off campus may creep in on the next breeze.

For more information about Smith's efforts, go online to the Botanic Garden. The complete list of invasive species is located online at the New England Wild Flower Society.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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