Assumption: Most plant diversity in Missouri is near the ground

Assumption: Recent invasive species (Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Winter Creeper/ Climbing Euonymus, Bradford pear…) have severely transformed our natural landscapes, especially at the ground level.

Assumption: The expanding saturation frontier of several invasive species shows no sign of being stopped or reversed.



Assumption: Eventually only areas of active restoration and prevention will maintain traditional natural landscapes

Assumption: People are starting to become more aware of the problem and are fighting back

Assumption: Lots of urban acreage currently is lawn. We have an enormous potential to restore and landscape traditional plant communities.

Refugia: Ecological enclaves that preserve threatened or relic species.

YES REFUGIA!!! Why not!!!!!! 
Because it is labor intensive, refugia should be done in urban areas. Cities and suburbs are where people can easily work on preserving our natural heritage while also beautifying their communities.

Replacing lawns that are not actively being used for recreation or transportation offers an enormous potential.

Community civic groups, gardening clubs, nature enthusiasts and hobbyist can cultivate the preservation of native and relic ecology.

Here are some ideas:

Urban restoration areas in parks and common ground – Such efforts should be publicized and used to educate the public

Native Garden clubs – Organizations can aid gardeners and promote native plants. They can showcase native landscaping. Gardening groups can catalog and distribute gardening advice and field notes

Native garden contests / promotions / photo contests. Native gardens can be showcased thru contests, calendars, websites and videos

Cultivating and distributing local native cultivars – Native plants and seeds can be collected and distributed from natural areas before they are developed. Nurseries can offer local varieties of native plants.

Partnerships – Universities can collaborate with landscaping companies in order to develop ecological restoration business models. Public land managers can work with academic and corporate sponsors to promote restoration efforts. Schools can give students opportunities to volunteer and learn about careers in ecology, land management and landscaping.



Spread the word!



Traditional Missouri landscape

Refugiaan area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Invasive species threaten our traditional natural environments.


Areas set aside as ecological preserves and wilderness are generally areas where human interference has been restricted or limited.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Wilderness has been traditionally defined as undeveloped or free from human management


Traditional Missouri landscape, diverse but at risk!

Invasive species challenge this “hands off” approach. By leaving the land alone, nonnative species completely transform traditional landscapes.


MKT trail – With green Honeysuckle infestations out to the horizon


Unfortunately, by introducing exotic species, merely protecting traditional landscapes from development is no longer enough. With invasive plants, we risk losing the ability to have large scale areas that are easy to maintain.


Honeysuckle removed (foreground)

In the face of multiple invasive species infestations, an active long term commitment to preventing and removing introduced species is required.


Severe Infestation of Asian Bush Honeysuckle. The entire area is saturated with it!

Sadly, what was once generally self-sustaining if left alone, now requires a well organized labor intensive intervention that, at best, can only be effective in a few select areas. In other words: Refugia.



Traditional Missouri landscape

In the face of multiple infestations of exotic invasive plants, establishing and maintaining refugia is our best hope for preserving our traditional natural environments.



Traditional Missouri landscape – Open with a view to the horizon

In other words, areas actively maintained to be free of invasive infestations will function as a refugia for traditional landscapes, while most other locations become severely degraded.


Severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation

Refugia for future generations.





Refugia could be anywhere. It could be your backyard or a group of neighbors who only plant native gardens.




It could be local parks and wooded common ground areas and it could be areas within our parks and wildlife refuges.


Traditional Missouri landscape

Larger refugia in high quality areas need to be carefully selected because of the long term systematic labor intensive efforts required.


Area where Asian Bush Honeysuckle has been removed

An example could be a state park located near an urban area.



Traditional Missouri landscape

Often such areas are already at risk because disastrous landscaping decisions found in adjacent suburban gardens.


Bradford Pear, another landscaping menace!

An organized intervention/maintenance program will be necessary

For example, a state park could create an adopt a spot system. Such a program could educate, supply, coordinate volunteers.

A state park with 2,000 acres and 500 volunteers could create a program where each volunteer is responsible for 4 acres. If each volunteer could locate 4 additional volunteers to assist, effectively the program would have an acre per person responsible for maintaining refugia.


Honeysuckle stump: Unfortunately chemicals will be needed to kill it!

Also needed would be buffer zone program around the state park. Such a program would inform landowners of invasive species problems in the area. Landowners would be offered various incentives to participate in keeping their land free of invasive infestations.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle and Winter Creeper infestation

Some possible incentives for landowners: Property tax reductions, sponsorship for invasive removal and maintenance on their property, some type of recognition for keeping a traditional environment on their property.

Please consider volunteering to support our traditional landscapes and diverse natural environments!


Traditional Missouri at risk! May Apples in spring time.


Sprawling Responsibly!

Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that cities in the United States are not as densely populated as cities in Europe, Asia and Latin America. By design, we do not use our urban space efficiently.


Colonia Del Valle, Mexico City


This is especially true in our suburbs. We love our lawns and even bland commercial developments have large mowed grassy areas with a few trees. The result: our cities take up much more space than they need to.



Also modern cities are unusually large, historically speaking. It used to be that a city with a million inhabitants was considered significant. Now mega cities of over 10 million are found throughout the world and cities with one or two million people are common. The amount of land that has been urbanized, even in densely populated cities is unprecedented.


Avenida Revolution, Mexico City

Sprawled out cities, therefore, make a bad situation worse… but do they have to?


Asian Bush Honeysuckle degrading an area set aside for recreation

Could a sprawled out city be landscaped to be more ecologically sound? Could the space between roads and buildings be transformed into gardens based on ecological considerations?  Can we preserve native plant communities, water quality, and species diversity, while at the same time improving city life with more interesting landscaping?

In other words, can we manage our cities to enhance ecology by transforming our lawns and gardens?


Here in the heartland of North America, our sprawled out cities have created an ecological disaster.

Presentation 3-page-001


Not only has sprawl inefficiently taken up a lot space, but urban landscaping has created a situation where the disastrous landscaping decisions in the city have actually damaged distant areas.


Climbing Euonymus or Wintercreeper, another invasive mess


Imported invasive plants flourishing in our neighborhoods have spread into areas designated as natural habitats. These invasive species have devastated our parks, conservation areas and wild lands.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle smothering an urban park


Bad landscaping decisions have become a form of pollution that continues to reproduce itself far beyond the degraded areas where these bad decisions have been made. Such “pollution” continues to replicate into ever expanding areas of monotonous monoculture.


Asian Bush Honeysuckle covering everything that is not paved or mowed


The responsibility of making informed decisions concerning urban landscaping, therefore requires accepting the consequences of introducing nonnative species. At the very least our gardens should do no harm.


A control burn area in a state park: a traditional landscape


Our responsibility within a sprawled out city is to dedicate as much land as possible to restoring natural ecosystems.   Imagine an urban landscape where pockets of native plant communities are restored in such a way as to enhance the aesthetics of the city.  Lawns and gardens would be transformed into showcases for native plant environments. Beatifying the city could help preserve our biodiversity.


When it comes to urban landscaping, our priorities need to change. Gardening for a purpose would go beyond having a nice bed of flowers or a rich green lawn. Instead we would concentrate on making our urban outdoor space a valuable refuge for at risk plant communities.  By using such plants as a palate, we can enhance areas that are nowhere near reaching their aesthetic potential in contemporary suburban settings.

Photos courtesy of Nadia’s Backyard

Your backyard can be a breeding ground for invasive species or a refuge that serves as an example of what makes our part of the world beautiful and unique. The challenge of limiting your garden to native plants can become a celebration of creativity with a purpose: Preserving our natural heritage.




A Prezi presentation on the Asian Bush Honeysuckle problem in Missouri is available to the general public

Here is the link: http://prezi.com/qvsq-kacbivy/copy-of-the-destruction-of-missouri/

The Green Tunnel

Severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation transforms the outdoor experience into a relentless navigation through a monotonous green tunnel

Imagine deer hunting, bird watching, mushroom hunting, hiking and mountain biking where a rich and diverse landscape is replace by an endless wall of impenetrable branches and leaves

Easy access to the land and sight distance is sacrificed for a wall of brush

In some ways it is a gradual process. It starts with a few scattered Asian Bush Honeysuckles deposited by birds.

Honeysuckle infiltration just beginning in a State Park

A few plants here and there are hardly noticed among the the other plants in a diverse Missouri plant environment.

Honeysuckle just beginning to overtake a woodland

At first, streams remain relatively clear of brush and accessible.

An accessible and unobstructed Missouri stream


When the invasion begins, sight distances are not as limited.


This is the traditional Missouri landscape: Diverse, visible, accessible.



Asian Bush Honeysuckle, an invasive non-native plant, gradually takes over nearly all plant environments in Missouri.

In your face, at eye level!

While the process is gradual, the result is a relentless saturation of nearly all surfaces that are not mowed or paved.

An entire bluff covered in Honeysuckle (almost all of the green bushes)


Typical severe infestation – over 10 feet tall!

For many years, only the first plants that arrive get tall and spread their seeds. Even when the bushes begin to cover much of the ground, they are not very tall and easily escape notice.

Just another bush in the beginning

Eventually Asian Bush Honeysuckle approaches 15 feet tall. Not only is the ground completely covered but every fall a new crop of seeds saturates the soil below or are spread wherever the birds that eat the berries take them.

ABH bushes over 10 feet tall in a St. Louis park

Large urban and suburban parts of the state are severely infested with Honeysuckle bushes, relentlessly devastating our native plant communities and traditional landscapes.

Severe infestation – there is a 4-5 foot gap under the Honeysuckle canopy

In the city, often landowners enjoy the privacy of a thick Honeysuckle hedge that they didn’t  have to buy or plant.

10-15 foot tall hedge

What they don’t realize is that the bushes form a hedge only because the surrounding areas are mowed, otherwise the plants grow relentlessly everywhere else.

Severe infestation completely covering a creek with thick brush

As you leave the city, the infestations are younger and eventually you reach an area where the plants are just beginning to appear.

Tragically, this window of opportunity, where small plants can be removed by pulling them out of the soil, is often lost.

Initially the plants are easy to spot because they leaf out early in spring and remain leafed out late into fall. Also they have a shallow root system so that even large bushes can be removed.

Knee high early infestation – Many can be pulled out by hand

Because most land owners and managers don’t notice the problem when it first appears, the opportunity to remove Asian Bush Honeysuckle without labor intensive and chemical intensive efforts is lost.

Traditional Missouri landscape

Without prevention and  intervention, relentless saturation of Asian Bush Honeysuckle seems inevitable. If it is not already spreading on your property, expect its arrival soon.

Heavily infested woodland (green bushes)

Columbia Missouri is a Midwestern college town with a high level of education among its citizens.

Photo by Jay Buffington

Based on the percentage of adults with graduate degrees, Columbia is the thirteenth most educated municipality in the United States.

MKT Trail with Honeysuckle saplings growing on the rocky cliffs

It is also known as a “green city” with many parks, recreation trails, bike lanes, recycling programs and a large segment of voters who consider environmental issues a priority.

Rock Bridge State Park – Outer Ozark Border

Our outdoor recreational areas are popular and appreciated. Many take pride in living in a place with so much natural beauty and the opportunity to enjoy it.

View from Forum Nature Area in Columbia, Missouri

In many ways Columbia is not a typical Midwestern small city.  If there is any place where you would expect people to be aware of a widespread ecological disaster unfolding in front of them… in plain sight… you would think it would be Columbia, Missouri.

MKT trail & a severe Asian Bush Honeysuckle infestation (all the green bushes!)

Of course, no city is perfect. It is hard to imagine a modern American urban area that is not covered in concrete and sprawled out on the edges.

Imported plant infestations that begin in the city eventually infest the areas we have set aside to remain as wilderness.

Gans Creek Wilderness area Rock Bridge State Park

Our parks, which have some truly outstanding examples of central North American scenery, are becoming drastically altered.

Watersheds and the surrounding mature hardwood forests of our traditional landscape are being devastated by exotic invasive vegetation.

MKT trail – With a green Honeysuckle infestation out to the horizon

Within the City itself, all areas that are not mowed or paved are relentlessly being dominated by Asian Bush Honeysuckle.

Asian Bush Honeysuckle – Impenetrable – over your head

In other areas Wintercreeper is smothering all surfaces it comes into contact with.

Wintercreeper Infestation – MKT trail

Most city dwellers are not aware of the radical transformation occurring within their backyards. These changes taking place are a drastic ecological break from the past… and it is relentless!

Severe infestation – Solid Honeysuckle over 10 feet tall in a forested area

Landowners who are aware of the problem can, sometimes with great effort, restore and recreate a diverse traditional Missouri landscape.

The “double whammy” in Columbia, Missouri – Honeysuckle & Wintercreeper in a backyard in Columbia

Those who live near the leading edge of infestation can take preventative measures. These are much easier than restoration work in areas of severe long term infestation.

The green bushes are Honeysuckle that are beginning to infiltrate Rock Bridge State Park

How can it be that such a drastic change to our ecology and traditional landscape is completely ignored?

Mature Oak Hickory forest with a heavy infestation

How can we let our backyards become breeding grounds for noxious vegetation, rather than showcases that celebrate our unique and beautiful natural landscape?

Ancient Central Missouri landscape – Rock Bridge State Park

How can we let our undeveloped areas become overrun by evasive species without reacting?


How can Columbia, this “green” city that appreciates its outdoor resources and natural heritage, let this happen?

Severe Wintercreeper and Honeysuckle infestation right off the heavily traveled MKT trail.

Wintercreeper: It stays green all year and covers everything. Why is it here?

It seems the nursery trade brought it here and everyone who bought it assumed it would be a nice addition to some corner of their yard.

It seems everyone assumed there would be no unintended consequences to bringing an untested ground cover into Missouri.  As it stands now, any plant from any part of the world is welcome here until its the damage is done.

In fact, it seems like even when the damage is done, there is no effort to stop its spread.

Honeysuckle & Wintercreeper - The new monotonous Missouri

Our traditional landscape is sacrificed for exotic plants that are not particularly that aesthetically pleasing or functional.

Traditional Missouri in winter

Nothing illustrates the utterly devastating damage from Asian Bush Honeysuckle better than a visit to the local creek


A creek in Columbia, Missouri


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A creek in a woodland in St. Louis, Missouri

In Honeysuckle infested areas, a solid wall of 15+ foot honeysuckle will completely cover the bank, thereby severely limiting access



Honeysuckle on the bank



The green tunnel


Outside the green tunnel – the creek is underneath the wall of Honeysuckle


In a traditional Missouri landscape, access to wetlands, creeks, and river banks can be difficult, with tall grasses and forbs, bushes and small trees.


Native plants along the bank


In general, however, creeks and wetlands will be accessible and visible from a distance and few plants will continually block access along the banks

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No Honeysuckle yet – in full sun!


A traditional Missouri landscape – Rock Bridge State Park


Creek banks can be seen and approached with ease

A creek bank in a woodland – Rock Bridge State Park