A single look around the Piscataway Park forest and you may miss just how many non-native plants and critters are in view. Upon a closer look, the forests here are full of incredible native plants and animals, as well as many non-native animals and plants. What is a non-native? Great question! A non-native species (plant or animal) is any species that was introduced to a place, purposefully or accidentally, by human beings. For example, corn is native to North America, but non-native in Europe. This means that humans introduced corn to Europe. Another example would be the many species of bees that have been introduced to North America since colonists first arrived. Non-natives are not usually a problem until they start replacing native plants and animals and making it hard for native species to survive.
Any species that invades the ecosystem and space of native species (plant or animal) are considered 'invasive'. An invasive creature or plant comes into the North American ecosystems and takes over, pushing native plants and critters out or even killing them off.
All around you are plants that are not originally from North America. Many of them are even crowd favorites - they were introduced so early in the history of America that many people don't know they aren't native plants. Some even have native cousins, so it can be hard to identify which one you have found. Explore this list below and see if you can discover which of these plants are native, non-native, and/or invasive. A few might fit into more than one of those categories.
Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale
Common Name: Common Dandelion or just Dandelion
Native to Europe and Asia, originally brought to America as a food crop in the 1600’s.
Known for its brightly colored yellow heads