These Invasive Plants Found In West Texas Are Bad News
Have you ever traveled somewhere and tried to bring back either a fruit, plant, or something along those lines not native to Texas? It's a question they tend to ask at the airport and it's confusing to many as to why that question gets asked.
What's the big deal if I bring back a giant leaf that I thought was cool? Maybe it's a fruit I had never had before but discovered on vacation and just had to have some when I got back.
Then it gets discovered by TSA and they immediately throw it out saying you can't bring it with you. That's because it can be considered an invasive species. Anything that isn't naturally found in the habitat of where you live can be extremely dangerous.
No, it's not something that will kill you per se, but it is something that if it gets introduced to natural species here, it can pose a significant threat to native and plant communities. By significant threat, I mean it can do several things such as lead to extinction of native plants and animals among other things.
Texas currently has 91 different invasive species listed, and if any of them were to set down roots, it could alter everything we know about plant and animal life in the state.
Each region of Texas has invasive species found within them, and West Texas is home to four of them. Three of these can be somewhat commonly found, while one is less commonly found, or is less impactful if it's found.
Let's start with the three most commonly found or could potentially have the most impact to the West Texas region:
This tree is absolutely beautiful and majestic when you see it. The small, smooth, singly-toothed leaves that can grow up to around 2.5 inches in length and are commonly tapered or rounded at their base. There are also these alternate leaves that create a contrast in essence as they are dark green and have different features than the main leaves typically found on the tree.
It also produces flowers that are greenish in color, but lack petals, and they commonly come in clusters of 2-5 blossoms. There are also winged fruits you'll find that hang in clusters and are normally 1/2 inch-wide.
The name makes it seem like this is something you shouldn't get rid of. Sadly, if it's seen, it can be harmful to everything around it. This is originally from China, and they are trees that can rapidly grow to a stunning 80 feet tall.
Its leaves are typically 10-40 leaflets on long stalks that are 1-3 feet long. Captivating your eye a bit more are these yellowish-green flowers that grow a wing-shaped fruit on female trees.
This one can be absolutely beautiful in the spring and summer, as the branches bloom with radiant color. You'll see these bloom with little pink and white flowers that overlap each other, and make for a great photo-op when you see them.
Typically found in the intermountain region of the western United States, these plants have a tendency to pop up in dry areas, such as the panhandle, if an unusually wet spring or early summer happens, or if rivers or lakes temporarily flood their boundaries. There's a good chance you saw it with all the flooding we had.
There is one more in the West Texas region that can pop up from time to time, but it isn't seen as often as some of the ones listed above, and it also has a lesser impact on the region when it is seen.
This is one that has been known to out-compete the native vegetation, while interfering with natural plant succession and can also tax any water reserves.
These are commonly found in places such as forest openings and along forest edges, and the last time I checked, West Texas wasn't exactly a forestry kind of place.
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Gallery Credit: Jordan Richardson