Planting natives can help prevent issues with invasive species

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Buckthorn (top) and dormant Japanese Knotweed (bottom) are two ecologically damaging plants that should be replaced with native greenery to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

HOUGHTON — Remove the invasive and reintroduce the native–a key combination for keeping Michigan’s ecosystems healthy. 

As part of her talk on invasive species removal, Jill Fisher, botanist and educator for the Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area (KISMA) encouraged gardeners to use more native plants. Fisher spoke at the Portage Lake District Library on Tuesday.

“This is my favorite part of doing this work, putting the natives back in there and increasing diversity,” Fisher said. “I wanted to make suggestions that were especially good for our native wildlife.”

Shrubs like highbush cranberry, mountain ash, hawthorn, and ninebark provide needed food for native wildlife, with oak, cherry, willow and birch being top ranked trees for caterpillars which are an important food source for hatchling birds and those that don’t get eaten grow into pollinators, Fisher said. 

These plants can be incorporated into landscaping and gardening to help the local ecosystem. Fisher sees MTU as a good example of this idea, blending natives with other decorative varieties. 

Fisher explains that non-native plants can be fine to use, provided they are not an invasive variety.

“The point being that it’s still great to put the natives in there because of that relationship with insects and birds,” she said.

Many landscaping plants are chosen because they aren’t eaten by bugs. However, that’s not ideal. Fisher works to use beneficial and native plants in her own yard and even has a water feature that increases wildlife. 

For native plant hunters, he Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District holds a sale every spring.

“They’re a great source for these native things because they’re looking out for the wildlife…they’ve got some flowers too, that are good for the pollinators,” Fisher said.  

Otherwise, ask for native trees and plants at your local nursery.

“We all make mistakes… a neighbor gives us something they thought was cool, we find out later that it wasn’t…It happens, try to control those mistakes and don’t spread them,” she said. “Plants, such as Japanese barberry, are sold in nurseries that we shouldn’t plant because they become invasive,”

To improve a backyard ecosystem it is worthwhile to pay a little more attention to what’s growing. 

For more information on bird friendly native varieties to use when gardening visit and the KISMA can be reached at and 906-487-1139.