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Jun 4, 2021

When you want advice about the problems that invasive trees and plants can cause in Indiana, whom do you consult?

Jo Ellen Meyers SharpFor Hoosier History Live, the obvious choice is the Hoosier Gardener, aka Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, the award-winning, Indianapolis-based journalist and president of GardenComm: Garden Communicators International. An Indiana advanced master gardener, Jo Ellen will be Nelson's guest to share advice about Bradford pear trees and other non-native, invasive trees and plants that are damaging the state's environment. She also will offer advice about alternatives to planting "invasives," which have been displacing native species.

Among the culprits are Bradford pear trees - which began blooming in mid-April, with distinctive white blossoms - and other ornamental pear trees. Jo Ellen also has written a blog post that warns about the problems caused by a popular groundcover in many Hoosier landscapes known as the "winter creeper." She explains that invasive species often have a "growth habit that out-paces and disrupts native species."

A front-page article in the Indianapolis Star last month describes Bradford pears as nearly ubiquitous in the state now, with their early blooming "giving them an advantage over native species and allowing them to take their resources... Invasive plants are wreaking havoc on Indiana's ecosystems."

And the Bradford pear trees aren't the only problem. Jo Ellen notes the Indiana Natural Resources Commission has put together a list of terrestrial plants designated as pests. Several varieties of honeysuckles, including shrubs and a vine, are on the list of plants that are prohibited from being sold or planted.

Referring to the planting of Bradford pear trees, Jo Ellen says, "This is an example of good intentions gone bad... These trees have escaped our landscapes and now displace native trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, which disrupts the ecology."

Jo Ellen, a garden coach with an all-season container planting business, co-teaches the City Gardener Program with a Purdue University-Marion County horticulture extension educator. Nelson plans to open the phone lines early during our show so listeners can call in with gardening questions. Jo Ellen also is the owner of Write for You! LLC, a freelance writing and editing business.

Jo Ellen's Hoosier Gardener blog posts are available as an email newsletter.