Swap Invasive Plant Pests for Well-Behaved Plant Pals
By Debra Knapke
PART TWO: The Alternatives
Here are some “poster children” of the invasive plant world. Each is followed by a few well-behaved alternatives. According to C. Colston Burrell, author of Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, “The best alternative is one that mimics some desired characteristic of the invasive plant, such as flower or fruit color.”
Be sure to check that the alternatives are suitable for your area and soil conditions.
Trees and Shrubs
Autumn-olive, Russian olive – (Elaeagnus umbellata, E. angustifolia), introduced in the late 1800’s as ornamentals.
strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), wax-myrtle, bayberry (Morella cerifera, M. pensylvanica), viburnums (Viburnum prunifolium, V. lentago), shrub dogwoods (Cornus racemosa, C. amomum), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.)
Common buckthorn, European buckthorn – (Rhamnus cathartica, R. frangula)
winterberry (Ilex verticillata), dogwoods, spicebush (Lindera benzoin), white cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii); listed as invasive in 20 states; still used in the landscape.
chokeberries (Aronia), common ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), weigela (Weigela floribunda cultivars), winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)
Non-native shrub honeysuckles – (Lonicera maackii, L. morrowii, L. tatarica), etc., imported as ornamentals and for soil erosion control, group listed as invasive in 46 states; some are still used in the landscape.
shrub dogwoods, spicebush, sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)
Grasses and Perennials
Common reed grass – Phragmites australis, hard to distinguish from native species; probably crossed with US native strains.
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata)
Purple loosestrife – (Lythrum salicaria and its hybrids), ornamental introduced in early 1800s.
swamp milkweed, (Asclepias incarnata), purple coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), blazing stars (Liatris spicata, L. pilosa, L. ligulistylis)
Water hyacinth – (Eichornia crassipes), introduced as an ornamental; fortunately not hardy in most of the Midwest
yellow water lily, American white waterlily (Nymphaea mexicana, N. odorata), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)
Vines and Groundcovers
Japanese wisteria – (Wisteria floribunda), listed as invasive in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast US; the Midwest will probably soon follow.
American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), Kentucky wisteria (W. macrostachya).
Porcelainberry – (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), ornamental introduced in the 1870s, still used in the landscape; listed as invasive in 12 states.
leatherflower (Clematis viorna), Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), wild honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica), and virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana)
Wintercreeper euonymus – (Euonymus fortunei), ornamental introduced in 1907; still used in the landscape. Select alternative based on intended use as groundcover or vine.
bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi),trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), and American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens).
Note: US natives trumpet creeper, crossvine and American bittersweet are veryvigorous vines.
Previously published in the Garden Writers Association Quill & Trowel No. 3, June 2012.