Sunday, June 27, 2010

Introduction to the Invasives

Living in an urban area has its conveniences but also many challenges. One of those challenges is dealing with the invasive plant species that have been introduced by well meaning gardeners.  Here are several we are continually battling.

Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowi)

Bush honeysuckle is a native of Asia and extremely invasive. The berries are eaten by birds, which transport them all over. They easily end up in our area parks and woodlands where they take over.

Bush honeysuckle was planted along the edge of our yard before I moved in. It took me quite some time to become informed about this invasive, and I have been fighting it since. They are extremely hard to kill. It cannot be done without herbicides, which I carefully dab on the cut stumps to try and avoid contaminating anything around it.  Every spring I am continuing to pull seedlings that pop up in my yard.

If you discover bush honeysuckle in your yard, please take it out and consider replacing it with native plants.  If you live in Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation has an excellent brochure, which gives wonderful native alternatives.

Wintercreeper  (Euonymus fortunei)

This plant has been used as a ground cover all over St. Louis. You can also find many “euonymus trees” in the area as people let the vine grow up the tree. When allowed to stay on the ground it can usually be kept confined to a given area. However, when this vine is allowed to climb up trees and on fences it will flower and produce berries, which, just like the bush honeysuckle, the birds eat and spread. Wintercreeper is being found in our local parks and woodlands where it chokes out the wild flowers and kills small trees reducing the diversity in any area it grows.  At Adventure Farm I find wintercreeper in my gardens on a regular basis.

Some lovely MO native ground covers that can be used in place of wintercreeper include:

Squaw-weed (Senecio obavatus and Senecio ampullaceus)
Native ferns
Rose verbena (Glandularia canadensis)
Purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrate)
May Apple (Podophllum peltatum)
Canadian Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Sweet autumn virginsbower  (Clematis terniflora )

This is one of our biggest problems. This clematis blooms in the fall with beautiful showers of tiny white flowers. I can understand the attraction. However, it is highly invasive and hard to get out. I pull and pull this stuff every year and try to make sure it doesn’t bloom and go to seed in the fall.

Unfortunately these are not the only invasives in our area and that trouble us at Adventure Farm.  There are more than I could possibly list here, but a short list of sometimes surprising invasives include:

Burning Bush
Butterfly Bush
English Ivy
Rose of Sharon
Japanese honeysuckle

Please take some time and become familiar with your native alternatives. A nice place to visit online for MO natives is the Grow Native website at

Grow native is a program developed jointly by Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

If you don't live in Missouri, I'm sure there are many resources in your area to help you become informed, too. Get Googling :)


  1. I have both honeysuckle and winter creeper in my yard. The woman who had the house before us landscaped with both. It has been an ongoing battle the 5 years we've owned the house. Ugh. This year for every honeysuckle bush I chop down I'm replacing it with a native. I've paused on the honeysuckle hacking this spring/summer to preserve any hidden birds nests. Cardinals especially are fond of nesting in thick shrubs.

  2. Oh and I forgot to add that I have Rose of Sharon in the yard too...and it's just as bad, if not worse than the honeysuckle.

  3. Yes, my neighbors planted Rose of Sharon several years ago. It is becoming a hugh nightmare. I'm shocked at how fast it has spread, mostly in their yard so far.