There’s more than meets the eye in a sea of green plants and weeds, especially at the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove.
Some may call Dimitria Patrikis an expert on this stuff, as she can identify the difference between a fox grape vine, a native plant, and a porcelain berry vine, an invasive plant. In a preserve that consists of 62 acres with five miles of marked trails, Patrikis knows of the friends and many of the foes – the friends being native plants and the foes being non-native and invasive plants.
“[Invasive plants] do impact [the preserve] quote a lot actually,” Patrikis said. “They impact Long Island as a whole, but as a focus on the preserve here, they do impact the species because invasive plants are bullies. They bully out the native plants and they don’t give the native plants the chance to grow, and the native plants are what the species that live here depend on.”
In a land that is maintained by the staff at the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, while remaining practically untouched as no one is allowed to leave or take anything inside of the preserve, many critters like foxes, birds and squirrels depend on the plants here for food. A fun fact, Patrikis remarked, is that poison ivy, a native plant, is one of the many plants the animals like to munch on. While humans are often allergic to poison ivy, it’s not a bother to the birds and the squirrels. “Yes we do try to get it away from the edges of the trail so that people don’t get itchy with it, but it’s actually a very valuable food source.”
But some may wonder what exactly an invasive plant is. They do not typically stand out, in fact, they typically blend in. If left alone, however, they can wipe out the plants that people want to keep around. English ivy, Asiatic day flowers, porcelain berry and night shade are just some examples.
These invasive species can spread via wind, seed or can travel through their roots. Even birds can spread invasive plants from place to place. Some may unknowingly plant an invasive species because they believe it would make a good ground cover or because it’s aesthetically pleasing.
Invasive plants can choke the life out of the plants nature lovers like Patrikis do want, like New York iron weed, highbush cranberry, black locust and blue mistflower. Patrikis, as she pointed out a bushel of the highbush cranberry and the bluemist flower, gave the plants a sympathetic gaze. “They’re trying,” she said. “They’re doing what they can.”
As she walked through the Bird Friendly Garden located next to the museum, she set her sight on a garden that was in danger of being ravaged by the English ivy. Seeing a small hole in the ground, she filled it with dirt. “Someone was digging for lunch,” she remarked.
“You can see the English ivy trying to get back in here,” Patrikis said. “We pull it out, it comes right back. It’s nasty, nasty, nasty stuff. It’s all inside in there. You can see how it’s vested on the ground there. It’s all English ivy. It chokes out all the other plants. It’s not that I have a personal aversion to English ivy, although I sort of do, but the fact is that it doesn’t peacefully co-exist.”
Co-existing and balance is among the cornerstones of Patrikis’ philosophy when it comes to the grounds of Garvies Point. For example: the popular butterfly bush that pollinators like the monarch butterfly enjoy drinking the nectar from. If one wants to plant one of those, Patrikis said, they should consider also planting common milkweed or a pipevine.
“If somebody’s planting a garden, I’m not saying not to go out and buy a butterfly bush, they’re pretty and they’re lovely,” Patrikis said. “And the butterflies do come to them. But you want to also provide something they can plant their eggs in. Common milkweed for monarch and then there’s other things like pipevine and the pipevine swallowtail likes that one.”
Just a short walk away from the Bird Friendly Garden is the Butterfly Friendly Garden, busy with small winged creatures like honeybees. While plants are relatively self sufficient, Patrikis does enjoy helping them along. Patrikis set her attention on a common milkweed pod bustling open with seeds. The seeds are white, fluffy and are lighter than a feather. She took a couple seedlings in her hand and let them free into the air, and they floated towards the sky until they could no longer be seen.
Perhaps one day, those seedlings will become another milkweed plant, adding to the balance of life here in Glen Cove.
Examples Of Invasive Plants On Long Island
European cranberry bush
Silver lace vine
Yellow flag iris
Common reed grass
Japanese silver grass
—Information provided by Cornell University Cooperative Extension Nassau County
Want To Help Weed Invasive Plants Out Of The Garvies Point Preserve?
Plant Conservation Volunteer Days:
Sept. 18, Oct. 16 and Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Help remove non-native invasive plants from the nature preserve. RSVP by calling (516) 571-8010. Light refreshments will be available for volunteers. For more information about Garvies Point Museum and Preserve events, visit garviespointmuseum.com.