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What You Should Know About Invasive Plants in the U.S.

Updated on January 26, 2017
chezchazz profile image

Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.

Photo shows how kudzu can overtake a landscape. Kudzu, which was introduced to control soil erosion, now covers more than 7 million acres of the Southeastern USA.
Photo shows how kudzu can overtake a landscape. Kudzu, which was introduced to control soil erosion, now covers more than 7 million acres of the Southeastern USA.

Alien Species


The recent increase in ecological awareness frequently results in the misguided notion that anything and everything green is good. Instead of worrying about preventing “illegal aliens” of the human species from taking up residence within our borders, it would behoove us to redirect that energy to stop a far more serious invasion of aliens of the botanical species.

This is a topic we care deeply about and we encourage you to learn all you can about invasive plants in your region and we thank you for taking the time to read this lens and for planting responsibly.


Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife

What Makes a Plant Invasive?

Invasive plants are plants that have been introduced into the United States from other countries either intentionally or unintentionally and that have spread virulently.

Due to a lack of natural herbivores and parasites to limit their spread, they soon taking over their new habitat, displacing native species and disrupting ecosystems, adversely affecting agriculture, wildlife that depend on native plants for food, soil composition, and biodiversity.

Not every non-native plant introduced into the United States is invasive. Some have been beneficial and include a large percentage of our food crops. However, many species cause major environmental and economic damages to agriculture and other aspects of the ecosystem.

It is estimated that the economic cost of invasive species comes to about $120 million per year. The ecological cost is incalculable.

European Purple Loosestrife (shown in the photo above), for example, was introduced in the early 1800s for its ornamental qualities and, although it is lovely to look at, it is also extremely aggressive, spreading. across more than one billion acres in 48 states annually. It is considered the cause for the loss of at least 44 native plant species and, because local wildlife do not eat the plant, and starve, the demise of the bog turtle and several duck species as well as the depletion of other animal species. It is estimated that it currently costs about $45 million per year to control just this one species of plant.

CAUTION: Some Alien Species Are Toxic - Know what precautions to take

Some plants not only cause harm by the negative impact resulting from their choking out and overtaking native plant life. Some are dangerous to even touch and care should be taken when removing them.

Giant Hogweed, for example, has become rampant in New York and the rest of the northeast coastal areas, reaching into Vermont and continuing to spread. It has also taken a hold in parts of Canada and Europe. Giant Hogweed comes from China and was brought to Europe and subsequently imported to North America by the Victorians who thought it was a stunning architectural plant.

What they did not realize was that the sap causes the skin to burn, darken, and scar. If it touches your eyes, it can cause blindness. It is difficult to irradicate as each plant produces 50,000 seeds that are viable for 7 years. Although it can grow to over 20 feet high, smaller seedlings are just as toxic and have been found in backyards and parks in addition to forested areas and riverbanks. We suggest you take a few minutes to view the excellent videos on this page. They are factual and educational, rather short in length, and not sensationalized.

Alien Plant Invasion: Is it too Late?

Some Common Overly Aggressive Plants

Some local and mail-order Nurseries continue to sell plants that are invasive in some or all climates because they are easy to grow -- but they can soon take over your landscape.

You should familiarize yourself with those plants considered invasive in your area before purchasing such unfortunately common plant offerings. (See list of some of the most common ones below.)

If you do choose to cultivate a plant classified as invasive in your region, plan on being vigilant about deadheading to prevent seeding and constantly monitoring the spread of the plants. If you turn your back, go on an extended vacation, or otherwise neglect your garden, the invasive plants will take over their better-behaved neighbors.

Common Invasive Plants

  • Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)
  • Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria)
  • Norway maple (Acer platinoides)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)


  • False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)
  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris and thunbergii)
  • Burning bush (Euonymus alata)
  • Lady bells (Adenophora)
  • Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • Sieboldi's Viburnum (Viburnum sieboldii)
  • Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

What You Can Do - How You Can Fight Invasive Species

Designing Your Garden With Native Plants Instead of Invasive Species

Related Pages

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This page reveals 101 gardening secrets that the pros, retailers and giant chemical corporations don't want you to know.

( You'll find our other articles here.)

So Glad You Stopped By! - Stay just a little bit longer and . . .

Let us know what you think, share your experiences with invasive plants (problems and/or solutions), recommend additional resources, or share relevant photos.

© 2009 Chazz

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    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      This is an important issue about green--there are green monsters, too. Even in Albuquerque, with so little rain, we have invasive weeds, like Solanum and Chinese Elm.

    • AgingIntoDisabi profile image

      AgingIntoDisabi 4 years ago

      You always hear about this problem down in Florida, but it's apparently nation-wide.

    • karen-stephens profile image

      karen-stephens 4 years ago

      Thank you for the north van hogweed video. I have never seen them this big. Angel Blessings.. xxo

    • profile image

      CreativeGal 4 years ago

      You have really written and provided some excellent content -- on an important subject. Sincere appreciation!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      There's some kind of invasive plant around here (Flagstaff, Arizona) that I see all over in the meadows and along the sides of the road ... and in the forest, come to think of it, but I don't know what it's called. It's actually quite pretty when it flowers, but I know it's not "supposed" to be here. I see people pulling it up as they hike or intentionally go on outings to pull as many of the plants as they can. It's actually very easy to pull out, but it seems that two or three grow for each one that's pulled.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 5 years ago from U.S.

      We spent some of today pulling up large quantities of garlic mustard in our backyard. I like how they look in small quantities, and I can use small quantities for cooking, but they overrun large areas. There's a garlic mustard pull at many of our local parks this year on May 1.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Important information on invasive species of plants, especially this time of year when gardeners head off to the local nursery. I've ripped several plants from my yard including Barberry shrubs and was disappointed to learn that Buddalia butterfly bushes can become invasive.

    • profile image

      TheDeeperWell 5 years ago

      A good place to get information about invasive plants is the California Invasive Pest Council at http://www.cal-ipc.org/ip/inventory/ This is an important issue and I am glad it is represented on Squidoo.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      Did I miss Kudzu, the Scourge of the south and one plant that will cover your cottage in foliage while you sleep it seems. Thanks for all the others you brought to our attention in this informative lense.

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 5 years ago

      Great stuff i found it both interesting as well as useful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hmm... had no idea about alien plant species. Always thought that they came from outer space! :)

    • Shanna Redwind profile image

      Shanna Redwind 6 years ago

      We've got a lot of garlic mustard around our place. It's terrible stuff- hard to kill, and not much will grow in the spot that garlic mustard has been

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Interesting lens! I have a big problem with creeping charlie. Wild violets, bindweed and mulberry trees are also big problems in my yard. It is a constant battle.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I have pulled more knapweed then I want to remember. Here it is a real concern as it is slowly spread by recreational vehicles, logging, and wildlife. Sad situation how quickly these plants creep in.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Whoa! That hogweed is some kind of crazy plant! I had no idea.

    • chezchazz profile image
      Author

      Chazz 7 years ago from New York

      @ElizabethJeanAl: Thanks. will do.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

      Very informative. This lens would be an excellent addition to the Squidoo Garden Plexography. Add it to the Pest Plexo. It's not a perfect fit but it will work.

      Thanks

      Lizzy

    • chezchazz profile image
      Author

      Chazz 7 years ago from New York

      @Gloriousconfusion: Thank you for your comments and for sharing your lens. We moved into a house with a yard full of invasive plants -- from scrubby groundcovers including wild strawberries and choke weed to forsythia and burdock. As someone who does not use pesticides, I am still trying to get rid of the berries and choke weed. I do grow vinca, but it is in a restricted area between the cement sidewalk and curb so it is easy to contain.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I found your lens so interesting that I even watched the videos, which is rare for me. The National Park one about tamarisks was a bit too long and I got impatient before the end.

      I have several invasive flowering plants in my garden, including tamarisk, which has not really invaded at all - it has not sent up any shoots or multiplied. I had skin poisoning from hellebore seeds which looked similar to that described in the video about Giant Hogweed, but not quite so virulent. I described it in my lens Ten Plants which tolerate shade - http://www.squidoo.com/10_shade_tolerant_plants. The following plants in my garden are invasive and need a lot of rooting out every year, and half of North London has seeds, cuttings or roots from my garden, but the flowers are so lovely that they are worth the extra work: Vinca, Montbretia, anemone japonica, eunonymous and shrubs - mahonia deutzia and pernetya. I don't know how to put photos into "comments" but it has given me an idea to make a separate lens.I am also plagued by blackberry plans.

      I am giving your lens 5 stars and lensrolling and favouriting it.Well done.