Those nasty boys...
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Even in plants, the adage, "Beauty can be deceiving," rings true. To make it more complicated, plants' hawkish nature can go by two names with one distinct and important difference.
People with much experience around plants know that it's almost impossible to avoid anthropomorphizing them as they do have distinct characteristics that often mimic human traits. Enter my use of the word hawkish. Other words you might have heard used to describe plants include thug, aggressive, and invasive.
The terms aggressive and invasive are often used interchangeably, however, the word invasive refers specifically to plants that aren't native to a region. This is important because their presence disturbs the natural balance of that area, which can impact the entire food web. It helps me to visualize and think back to the circle of life diagrams from elementary science class, with in invasive plant being like a black sharpie used to scratch out one of the food sources.
... the word invasive refers specifically to plants that aren't native to a region. This is important because their presence disturbs the natural balance of that area, which can impact the entire food web.
Ask any farmer and they can tell you that not just any grass is good forage for livestock. This is because different plants provide different nutrients. What we've learned about the food web is that plants in a certain region provide the correct nutrition to the native animals of that same region. An invasive species doesn't provide that nutrition and by its nature often hinders the growth of native species. This nudging out happens when a native plant loses growing space to an invasive plant but also because many invasive plants produce a chemical that hinders other plants' growth.
Many of my gardening friends use the broad term "thug" to refer to plants that spread, take over, or are difficult to control or contain, because to correctly use the terms aggressive or invasive, you need to know whether or not it is native.
I'm mixed on using the word "thug" because of how it can be used to negatively stereotype people. I'm continuing to search for a suitable word that could encompass both invasive and aggressive plants but in the meantime, I'll refer to them as "Nasty Boys" with all the attitude of Janet Jackson. If you're not familiar with the tune, you can give that song a listen here.