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Invasive Plant Promotes Spread of Deer Ticks

Japanese barberry. Photo Tom Richardson

An invasive plant commonly used for decorative landscaping is helping increase populations of deer ticks, according to a new study. Barberry thickets often spread to forests, where they create a monoculture in the understory that blocks native plants from growing. Further, their sharp thorns discourage deer from browsing them, while their bright red berries are widely distributed by birds.

Japanese barberry also creates an ideal habitat for deer ticks. Biologists have found that the humidity in barberry thickets is higher and the air temperatures are lower compared to outside the thickets. Deer ticks thrive in such conditions.

Further, a separate long-term study released last fall by researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that clearing barberry can lead to a significant reduction in tick abundance while reducing the risk of Lyme disease.

Article on how to manage Japanese barberry for tick control.

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