Invasive Plants

What is an Invasive Plant?

The U.S. government defines an invasive species as one "that is not native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health."

An invasive plant can be harmful in various ways:

  • Reduce or eliminate native food sources for wildlife
  • Provide poor quality food for wildlife - think fast food, low in nutrition but in large quantity
  • Reduce natural shelter for wildlife
  • Changes in the physical structure of the ecosystem affects nutrient cycles and natural water flow
  • Diverse natural plantings are much more attractive than a monoculture of invasive plants
  • Invasive plants cost money by degrading croplands and forests
  • Some invasive plants are dangerous because they have toxic sap

Why are plants invasive?

  • They spread easily by producing many seeds or spreading by roots or stems that root
  • They grow taller, faster and wider than native species, thus displacing native plants
  • By displacing native plants they take over as a mono-culture of a single species, thus reducing plant diversity
  • Seeds are easily moved by wildlife, wind or water

Invasive plants are not:

  • Not all introduced or non-native plants are invasive - There are some great landscape plants that are introduced, but do not become invasive
  • Not all introduced invasive species are accidents, many were brought here intentionally and planted for beauty or to prevent erosion

What Can I do to help control the spread of invasive plants?

  • Stay informed – keep up to date on the latest news about invasive plants
  • Keep them out of your garden - there are great native alternatives
  • Inform your gardening friends
  • Encourage your local nursery or landscaper to not carry invasive plants, but to replace them with better alternative

Kentucky's Least Most Wanted Plants

Each year Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council and the Environmental Resource Management Center at Northern Kentucky University publishes a poster of those plants that have proven to be invasive of our native habitats. These introduced plants are out-competing our native species resulting in a reduction of plant diversity. We urge everyone to be on the lookout for these plants and avoid planting them in your yards. Instead, we offer similar native plants that can and do provide similar enhancements to your environment.

Least Wanted Plant of 2017: Japanese Bareberry
Native Alternatives: Virginia Sweetspire, Arrowwood, or Black Chokeberry

Least Wanted Plant of 2016: Chocolate Vine or Five-Leaf Akebia
Native Alternatives: Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, or Crossvine

Least Wanted Plant of 2015: Mimosa or Silktree
Native Alternatives: Alternate-Leaf Dogwood, Red Buckeye, or American Witch-Hazel

Least Wanted Plant of 2014: Porcelain Berry
Native Alternatives: Pepper Vine, American Wisteria, or Raccoon Grape

Least Wanted Plant of 2013: Autumn Olive & Russian Olive
Native Alternatives: Common Elderberry, Black Chokeberry, or Blackhaw Viburnum

Least Wanted Plant of 2012: Sweet Autumn Clematis
Native Alternatives: Passionflower, Dutchman's Pipe, or Virgin's Bower

Least Wanted Plant of 2011: Lesser Celandine
Native Alternatives: Lobed Tickseed, Celandine Poppy, or Green & Gold

Least Wanted Plant of 2010: Privet
Native Alternatives: Red Chokeberry, Ninebark, or American Holly

Least Wanted Plant of 2009: Callery Pear (Bradford Pear)
Native Alternatives: Fringetree, Rusty Blackhaw, or Wild Plum

Least Wanted Plant of 2008: Princess Tree
Native Alternatives: Yellowwood, Northern Catalpa, or Serviceberry

Least Wanted Plant of 2007: Japanese Knotweed
Native Alternatives: Buttonbush, Blue False Indigo, or Fragrant Sumac

Least Wanted Plant of 2006: Asian Bittersweet
Native Alternatives: (Red) Trumpet Honeysuckle, American Bittersweet, or Cross vine

Least Wanted Plant of 2005: Chinese Silver Grass
Native Alternatives: Switch Grass or Indian Grass

Least Wanted Plant of 2004: Burning Bush
Native Alternatives: Strawberry Bush, Spicebush, or Winterberry Holly

Least Wanted Plant of 2003: Crown Vetch
Native Alternatives: Prairie Wildflower mix

Least Wanted Plant of 2002: Wintercreeper
Native Alternatives: Ginger, Allegheny Spurge, Mountain Lover or Cliff Green

Least Wanted Plant of 2001: Purple Loosestrife
Native Alternatives: Blazing Star, Great Blue Lobelia, or Obedient Plant

Least Wanted Plant of 2000: Shrub Honeysuckles
Native Alternatives: Winterberry Holly, Spicebush, or American Cranberry Viburnum

For More Information please visit one of the following links:
Plant list by years

Invasive Plant Awareness

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