Invasive Plants and Outdoor Recreation


Invasive plants can affect your ability to enjoy natural areas, parks, and campgrounds. Hikers, cyclists, ATV riders, hunters, and horseback riders all enjoy well-maintained trails, and invasive plants can grow over trails, making them difficult to navigate. Natural scenic beauty and diverse wildlife sought by nature enthusiasts are compromised by invasive plants, which often form single-species stands, displacing attractive native flowers. Some invasive plants can even increase health hazards. For example, Japanese barberry (pictured below) has very dense foliage which creates a humid micro-climate perfect for incubating the ticks that carry Lyme disease and other illnesses. 


Outdoor recreationalists can exacerbate the spread of invasive species by inadvertently carrying seeds or other plant parts from site to site on their clothes, equipment, or animal companions. Here are precautions that you can take to prevent the spread of invasive plants:

  • Clean mud and any visible plant matter from your gear before entering and leaving a natural area (gear includes shoes, clothes, pets, tents, backpacks, and vehicles)
  • If you are boating or fishing, make sure to inspect all watercraft and equipment for plant parts, clean them off, drain any bilge from boats, and dry the equipment thoroughly before moving to another body of water.
    • Learn more about stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species here
  • Stay on designated trails and roads to reduce disturbance and to minimize contact with invasive plants
  • Do not camp or travel through areas infested with invasive plants
  • At entrances to natural areas, use mechanical devices like the boot brush pictured, to remove seeds and other plant material from your shoes.
    • For a PlayCleanGo boot brush sign layout similar to the graphic to the right, contact PlayCleanGo
    • For more information about boot brushes, check out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources "Giving invasive plants the boot" article
  • Encourage any outdoor recreation clubs or natural areas you frequent to become PlayCleanGo partners. This campaign, which focuses on outreach and education to prevent spread of invasive species through outdoor recreation, engages partners throughout North America.


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