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What is an invasive non-native plant?

Poppies, West Sussex © Sarah Atherton/Plantlife

Floral fact

An archaeophyte is a plant that was introduced before 1500AD and has persisted naturally since – such as poppies (above, image © Sarah Atherton/Plantlife)

Those arriving after 1500AD are called neophytes.

Any plant that is 'non-native' means that it is not originally from that area, so it has been brought in - or 'introduced'- either deliberately or accidentally. An invasive species is one that can cause economic, environmental and/or human, animal or plant health problems.

While it may seem like a mouthful to refer to group of plants as 'invasive non native species', there is a reason for doing so. Not all non-native species are invasive and, equally, native species can also become invasive.

For example, the common stinging nettle is a native plant that has become invasive in some areas thanks to nutrient pollution from modern agricultural and industrial practices. Likewise there are many garden plants introduced from abroad that pose no threat to the wider environment. The problem with plants that are both non-native and invasive is that, as well as being naturally tenacious, they have the advantage of surprise: our own native flora has not evolved alongside them and so is even more ill-adapted to compete.

Non-native species are also sometimes referred to as aliens!

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Background image © Trevor Renals.