Driving down the highway, it’s common to see stretches of roadside overgrown with weeds. Once they get a foothold, invasive species such as purple loosestrife, kudzu, and Japanese barberry can crowd out native plants and take over.

Daniel Montesinos is with the Australian Tropical Herbarium at James Cook University. He says invasive plants tend to be fast at acquiring nutrients, growing, and reproducing.

This helps them spread rapidly across large areas. And it can help them evolve genetic adaptations more quickly than other plants.

“Invasive plants have demonstrated that they can adapt very rapidly to new environments,” Montesinos says.

So he says they stand a greater chance of surviving in environments that have been altered by human development – for example, in forests that have been disturbed by road construction.

“The thing with invasive plants is they’re really well prepared to respond and to benefit from everyhuman activity,” he says. “And they’re very well-suited to take advantage of climate change.”

So as temperatures warm and precipitation patterns change, Montesinos says it’s especially important to minimize damage to natural areas so fewer invasive weeds can take root and grow.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media