Invasive species' reach can be curbed with these tips

With all the invasive species out there, should I cut down my Japanese maple?

No, the Japanese maple is not invasive. Most non-native plants are not. Many spread or produce seedlings, but they don't take over the neighborhood or show up in natural areas. Here are the U.S. Department of Agriculture's seven simple steps to stop the spread of invasive plants, pests and diseases: buy local, burn local, as pests hide and ride on firewood; avoid planting invasive plants at all costs; don't bring or send fruit, vegetables or any agricultural item unless it has been inspected; cooperate with quarantines; keep it clean — check and wash outdoor gear, tires, vehicles, boats and personal watercraft, even boot tread, to make sure they're free of soil, insects, eggs or plants before leaving fishing, hunting or camp grounds, parks, or wild areas; learn to identify invasive species and report suspicious plants or insects to the Home and Garden Information Center (contact info below); declare agricultural items when traveling internationally. You don't want to be the cause of the next invasion.


Suddenly last spring, most of the leaves fell off my apple trees. The rest were light green and sparse. Half the branches are dead and the bark is curling off. No insecticide or pesticides were used. What does this mean?

Leaf loss, yellowing leaves and dead branches indicate a quickly declining tree. No pests or diseases are visible on the photo you sent through the HGIC website. However, we do see large mounds of mulch around the trunks. So-called mulch volcanoes can harbor insects (especially borers) and encourage canker diseases. Apply no more than 1-2 inches of mulch around a tree trunk or shrub and keep mulch from touching trunks. Read our eye-opening publication, "HG 86: Common Abiotic Plant Problems" online and/or call HGIC to discuss the problem in more detail.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to its website at

Plant of the week

Tiarella, Allegheny foamflower

Tiarella cordifolia

Tiarella is royalty among native ground covers. Its attractiveness peaks in spring, when dainty bottlebrush flowers arise with white to pink "stars" shining against dark flower stalks. The maple-leaf-shaped foliage spreads slowly to form a mat of overlapping leaves about 6-10 inches above the ground. Like its relative heuchera, many tiarella cultivars are available that capitalize on colored leaf veins and lobe crevasses contrasting with green. Pollinators enjoy tiarella. This forest native likes moist, organic-rich, acidic soil. It spreads by running stolons that root on contact with soil, plus it seeds. If frost heave exposes the base, simply recover with soil.

—Ellen Nibali