Avoid Introducing Invasive Plants to Your Landscape

Bradford pear trees in bloom.

Many nurseries and garden centers unknowingly sell invasive landscape plants to unsuspecting consumers. These invasives can escape from your yard and wreak havoc on natural areas and the native wildlife using them as habitat.

How do you know if a plant or tree is invasive? A simple search of internet with search terms like “Bradford pear invasive” can bring up the information you need to make an informed choice.

There are also many native alternatives to popular plants found at nurseries. Here’s more information about some common landscape plants and trees. 

Bradford pears have cross-pollinated with other pears and produced viable seed, which are spread into natural areas by birds. Bradford pears compete well against native plants because they leaf out early. These pears are also poor investment, as they typically live only 20 years and their limbs break easily in storms.

Bradford pear wikimedia commons 505x505
Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) ©wikimedia commons 

Native alternatives:
• Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) produces showy white blooms in April and a small red fruit edible by people and wildlife.
• Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are quick growing with lavender early-spring flowers and attractive green summer foliage.
• Wild plum (Prunus americana) has showy white blooms in spring.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Barberry’s distinctive red fruits are spread by birds and plants quickly established dense colonies in woodlands that crowd out native plants. Barberry overpowers native species by altering soil pH and nitrate levels, creating conditions that are beneficial for its growth alone.

Japanese barberry 505x405
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)  

Native alternative: Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a beautiful shrub with showy red berries in winter.

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
The plant’s fast growing vines can cover, shade and outcompete native plants. It can even girdle and kill trees. Birds and other wildlife eat the fruit and distributing the seeds. These are often sold in fall flower arrangements.

Oriental bittersweet 505x405 
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) 

Native alternative: Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is a twining woody vine best known for its showy red berries in fall and winter.

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
Burning bush invade old fields, roadsides and woodlands and form dense thickets that choke out native plants.

burning bush 505x405 (c) James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) ©James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, 

Native alternatives:
• Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) have small white flowers and dark blue berries.
• Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) grows as a large shrub and has beautiful fall color and fruit.  

Links to related information and resources about invasives: 

Top 10 Invasive Plant Species 

Identifying Invasive Species 

What Makes a Plant or Animal Species Invasive? 

Wild Things: Dealing with Invasives 

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