Knox County’s natural resource specialist Will Drews says compliance with the local Invasive Species Ordinance is “getting better.”

The ordinance, which was passed in 2018 and took effect in January 2020, prohibits the sale of more than 60 invasive plants, grasses, and trees.

Drews says though there was some resistance, as well as a learning curve in the early days of the legislation, local businesses continue to make strides.

“Businesses seem like they’re more receptive to it now,” he said. “Things are going pretty well so far this season.”

Drews, who serves as the enforcement officer for the Invasive Species Ordinance, says some nurseries or big box stores who violate the ordinance aren’t doing so intentionally.

“It’s weird the way plants are sold these days. A single store may get plants from three or four different entities, with some of those plant distributors setting up their own displays,” he explained.

When outside plant distributors bring in invasive plants banned by the ordinance, Drews said it can go unnoticed by the local retailer.

“But they’ve been trying to get their distributors not to send those plants,” he added, giving credit to area businesses for working to eliminate menacing invasive plants from the county.

So far in 2022, there have been only two violations of the ordinance, and Drews says they were relatively minor.

“We’re not talking about a lot of plants — just one Callery pear and a vendor-placed display with some burning bushes,” he said.

Over the short life of the Invasive Species Ordinance, it has prevented the sale of more than one thousand invasive plants in the county, with English Ivy, Chinese Silver Grass and Winter Creeper the three most common offenders, said Drews.

As awareness of invasive species grows across the county, more residents are actively removing the harmful plants and shrubs in favor of native options.

In late April, the Knox County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area hosted its county-wide invasive Shrub Replacement Program and saw increased participation.

Homeowners, business owners and other organizations were encouraged to remove invasive shrubs from their property and trade them for free, native shrubs.

Last year was the group’s first attempt at a shrub exchange event, and CISMA said more than 500 invasive shrubs were removed from the county, and more than 100 natives planted in their place.

This year, says Drews, the event was even more popular.

“There were over 700 invasive shrubs removed, and we passed out 138 replacements,” he said.

In addition to providing ornamental value, the native shrubs also offer substantial value to a variety of wildlife.

The small chokeberry shrub, for instance, not only blooms flowers similar to those of cherry trees, but it also produces a fruit good for birds and rabbits.

For those who looked to replace larger shrubs, like the invasive honeysuckle that spreads across fencerows, CISMA offered two options — the American Hazelnut, which produces edible nuts safe for human and animal consumption, or the Witch-Hazel, largely known for its medicinal properties.

Residents who need assistance identifying invasive shrubs or who would like more information on native plant options can email Drews at willem.drews@in.nacdnet.net or call 812-882-8210, ext 3408.
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