Choose These Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants - Backyard Boss
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Choose These Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants

Although each of Mother Nature’s plants is incredible, they all have their appropriate place on Earth. Invasive plants, for instance, are great in the wild, but when they start growing in your backyard, they can pose a problem. Invasive plants in the wild help feed the wild, but in your backyard, they can quickly displace native plants and grow out of control. They can be difficult to deal with so, much like anything else, prevention is better than cure. If you’re planning to grow some plants, keep an eye out for invasive plants that you may plant by accident! Some people do get carried away by an invasive plant’s pretty flowers and lush foliage, but know that there are native alternatives that won’t take over your yard.

10 Invasive Plants and Their Native Alternatives

1. Norway Maple

Norway Maple
Image Credit: Famartin via Creative Commons

The Norway Maple, or what we like to call “the grower,” is a tree that can be considered an invasive plant. The one good thing about the Norway Maple is it’s going to be ridiculously hard to miss. This tree can get anywhere from forty to sixty feet tall, and its’ leaves are four to seven inches with a dark green color on top. As the leaves mature, they turn bright red and yellow before turning brown. If you can imagine the tree, you now know why it is on this list. The Norway Maple can get so big that it prevents other plants from getting their nutrients to grow. That isn’t all; its roots grow aggressively, possibly damaging your pavement or other underground facilities.

Native Alternatives

Freeman’s maple (Acer x fremanii) Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

2. Periwinkle

Image Credit: gailhampshire via Creative Commons

We know what you’re thinking, periwinkle? It doesn’t sound like anything you should be worried about, but here is why you should. Periwinkle is a perennial you shouldn’t buy because it grows too easy and too fast. It can cover areas outside of your original plans. On top of that, it can cover up any other plants you want to be seen. Periwinkle is a gorgeous flower, making it a bit of an oxymoron. It is a pink-colored flower with hints of white and a reddish-orange center. The flower can also be noticed as it has five petals. As beautiful as this flower is, it can become a complete nightmare.

Native Alternatives

Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) Silverweed (Argentina anserina)
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

3. False Spirea

False Spirea
Image Credit: cheryl.reed via Creative Commons

Next is a shrub with a mind of its own. False Spirea is a shrub commonly grown through the spring and summer seasons. You’ll notice them by their large branches with green pinnate leaves. Tiny white flowers can be spotted around the leaves as well. These plants spread like wildfire, but the reason why is a little different. False Spirea grows suckers. Suckers are your plants’ attempt to develop new branches. This development can happen for many reasons, but the result is new plants you did not expect. So basically, False Spirea will take over if not attended to properly.

Native Alternatives

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

4. Common Buckthorn

Common Buckthorn
Image Credit: gailhampshire via Creative Commons

Common Buckthorn is one of the most invasive plants on this list. It’s pretty much a terrorizer compared to the others we’ve listed so far. It spreads fast, but it can also get in the way of other plants and completely disrupt an ecosystem. Common buckthorn stands out as a plant. It grows dark color berries, and it has prickly thorns on it. Buckthorn berries, root and bark are toxic to humans. So not only is buckthorn one of the most invasive plants, it has a look to match too.

Native Alternatives

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) Alternate-Leaf Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

5. Miscanthus

Image Credit: F. D. Richards via Creative Commons

Miscanthus is one of the most popular invasive plants; if you’ve ever been on a long drive before, you’ve undoubtedly seen a field of it on the side of the road. It has a fan-like shape and can reach up to ten feet in height. It is not as threatening as other invasive plants, but can still cause problems. Due to the length the plant can grow, it may overshadow other plants. In addition, its seeds are easily carried by the wind spreading across a vast plain. Even though it may not be as big of a threat as the other plants on the list, it still needs to be watched.

Native Alternatives

Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)

6. Daylily

Image Credit: Tobyotter via Creative Commons

Once you’ve seen daylilies, you might see them for a while from that point on. Usually spotted in more natural areas, they have a bulbous look, and the flower is an intense orange, red, yellow, white, pink, and even a combination of two colors. They create these very dense patches that can take over the native plants and have thick tubers. This predicament is what makes them hard to contain.

Native Alternatives

Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) Pale Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

7. English Ivy

English Ivy
Image Credit: James St. John via Creative Commons

English Ivy is another invasive plant that would be a part of the more dangerous class. The chances are you’ve seen it before. If you have ever walked or driven by an abandoned house and seen it completely covered in leaves, that is English Ivy. English Ivy completely takes over a habitat like no other plant. As previously stated, it can completely cover a house. It grows fast and wild to the point of destruction. This plant is simply no joke. English Ivy leaves are more toxic to humans and animals than the berries. If you must grow English Ivy, you’ll need to learn how to care for them indoors and outdoors.

Native Alternatives

American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) Wild Grape (Vitis spp.)
Wild Ginger (asarum canadense) Wild Strawberry (fragaria virginiana) Largeleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla)

8. Forsythia

Image Credit: Mr.TinDC via Creative Commons

Forsythia is another plant that can surprise you. It has beautiful bright flowers that grow during early spring, but you shouldn’t let its beauty fool you. It spreads quickly and can overcast other plants in its area. What makes it a hassle is how difficult it is to get out. Like they say, with beauty comes pain.

Native Alternatives

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Chokecherry (Aronia melanocarpa) Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

9. Goutweed

Image Credit: AndreyZharkikh via Creative Commons

Goutweed doesn’t waste any time in being a destructive plant. It goes deeper than overshadowing other plants; its roots damage the ground, leading to a lack of diversity for future plant growth. It is a very aggressive invasive plant. Also known as bishop’s weed, it has a typical green color. Because it looks like your typical plant, it can be easy to miss, but when it keeps growing, it will be easy to spot. It can be troublesome to get rid of, but there are many options to eliminate goutweed.

Native Alternatives

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) Largeleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla) Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

10. Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush
Image Credit: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Creative Commons

Our last invasive plant is a part of our “beauty but trouble” list. The shrub produces lavender-colored flowers and grey leaves that are a sight to see. Its shrubbery attracts many insects, specifically adult butterflies, hence the name. You’ll spot these plants in the open field, riverbanks, and reforested areas. The wind carries their seeds, which is one of the main reasons it is considered invasive. Its ability to spread rapidly is why it has to be on this list, no matter how attractive the plant may be. Ironically, despite the name, this plant does very little to support the life cycle of butterflies.

Native Alternatives

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) Ironweed (Veronia spp.)
Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata)

In Summary

Invasive plants can be troublesome, especially if they’re growing in your backyard. Not only are some toxic to humans and animals, they can quickly take over your yard, making it difficult for your other plants to thrive. It’s important to know the difference between invasive and native plants in case you accidentally plant one in your yard. Nature will always be great to experience, but some parts of nature can teach us a tough lesson.