From the climbing English Ivy to the expansive Autumn Olive shrub, these are 10 of the most invasive plants in Georgia.
Georgia homeowners will want to keep an eye out for invasive plants that could threaten their homes’ landscapes. The last thing you need is English Ivy pulling down a tree over your home or Japanese stiltgrass poisoning the soil and preventing your flower garden from thriving.
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The top 10 invasive plant species in Georgia
1. Autumn olive
Scientific name:Elaeagnus umbellata
What it looks like: Three- to 20-feet high deciduous shrubs with gray-brown bark, silver dots under the leaves, and red, juicy fruits. Some plants have thorns.
Why it’s a problem: The Autumn Olive was introduced to the US in 1830. In Georgia, it’s mainly a problem in the northern part of the state. It invades everything from fields to woods, spreading through birds and animals who eat its fruit. Autumn Olive displaces native plants, interfering with nutrient cycling and plant succession.
What to do: First things first, don’t plant it! If you come across an Autumn Olive, the young plants can be hand-pulled (make sure to get the roots), but larger plants should be cut and treated with herbicide.
2. Chinese privet
Scientific name: Ligustrum sinense
What it looks like: Shrub with thin leaves that can grow to 30 feet high. It has arching stems with leafy branches, clusters of small white flowers in the springtime, and dark purple berries in the fall and winter.
Why it’s a problem: The Chinese Privet was introduced to America in the early 1800s as an ornamental shrub. Because of its invasive nature, it can be found all over Georgia. Privet forms dense thickets and spreads through root sprouts and birds and animals dispersing seeds. It is still sold as an ornamental plant.
What to do: Don’t plant Privet! Instead, remove the plant and bag and dispose of the fruit. You can manually pull up seedlings (make sure to get the roots!), cut back the plant before the fruits appear, or treat them with herbicide to prevent any seed formation.
Scientific name: Pueraria montana
What it looks like: Climbing vine that can reach 100 feet long with broad leaflets and purple flowers with yellow centers.
Why it’s a problem: Native to Asia, Kudzu was introduced to the States in 1876 for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Planted across the eastern US to control erosion, it is now widespread in Georgia. This aggressively invasive plant can grow more than a foot in a single day, smothering and killing other plants and trees.
What to do: With Kudzu, you don’t need to destroy the complete underground root system—just the root crown. You’ll find the crown just below the ground, and cutting it will instantly kill the plant. Once you cut it, you’ll have to destroy all the crown material, or it could regenerate.
4. Chinese tallowtree
Scientific name:Triadica sebifera
What it looks like: Deciduous tree measuring up to 60 feet high and 3 feet around. Its leaves are heart-shaped with long, pointed tips. They often have yellow flowers on long, hanging spikes and three-lobed fruits in clusters at the end of the branches.
Why it’s a problem: Also known as the popcorn tree, the Chinese tallowtree is one of the most invasive trees in the southeastern US. History cites Benjamin Franklin as introducing it back in 1772. However, it has been promoted many times as an ornamental shade tree, for the soap industry, honey production, and even bioenergy. Despite these uses, the Chinese tallowtree has an enormous negative impact on pastures, prairies, wetlands, and forests.
What to do: Heavy machinery can often worsen the problem because the Tallowtree rapidly regenerates from lateral roots and stumps. Pull up seedlings when possible, but use herbicides with care because they often grow near water sources.
5. Multiflora rose
Scientific name: Rosa multiflora
What it looks like: A thorny shrub with round, arcing canes, small white flowers, and rose hip clusters with a feathery fringe at the base of each leaf.
Why it’s a problem: This Asian plant was initially planted in America in the mid-1900s as a fence for livestock. It is primarily a problem in Piedmont, forming impenetrable thickets and displacing native plants. It invades quickly and is very difficult to eradicate.
What to do: You can apply herbicide to the leaves or stumps after cutting off the plant’s large stems.
Scientific name:Albizia julibrissin
What it looks like: Known as the silk tree, the Mimosa is known for its fern-like leaves and bring pink pom-pom flowers.
Why it’s a problem: The Mimosa is widespread in Georgia, spreading rapidly and outcompeting native plants. It can be found along parking lots, waterways, and highways.
What to do: If possible, the best solution is to uproot. Otherwise, cut the tree and treat the stump or roots with herbicide.
7. Japanese honeysuckle
Scientific name:Lonicera japonica
What it looks like: Woody vine reaching up to 80 feet in length, with oval leaves, whitish-pink tubular flowers, and black fruits.
Why it’s a problem: Unlike the American honeysuckle, the Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive plant that can pull down other trees. Originally brought to North America in 1806, the Japanese honeysuck can now be found on roadsides, wetlands, forest floors, and canopies. It twines around saplings and forms dense mats in the canopy of trees, blocking sunlight from reaching other plants on the forest floor.
What to do: If you’re looking for sweet-smelling honeysuckle, opt for American honeysuckle instead. To get rid of Japanese honeysuckle, dig it up by the roots or apply herbicide.
8. Sericea lespedeza
Scientific name:Lespedeza cuneata
What it looks like: A perennial legume with woody stems and leafy branches.
Why it’s a problem: Sericea lespedeza was introduced to America to provide hay, stop soil erosion, improve pastries, and supply food for wildlife. Over time, it has proven to be an aggressive weed that is difficult to control and outcompetes native Georgian plants. Because each stem can drop a thousand viable seeds for over 20 years, it spreads rapidly.
What to do: A combination of spraying herbicide and burning can be an effective removal treatment.
9. English Ivy
Scientific name:Hedera helix
What it looks like: Climbing vine with dark, waxy green leaves, small greenish-yellow flowers, and black stone-like seeds.
Why it’s a problem: This aggressive vine grows along the ground and up trees into the forest canopy—threatening every level. They block out sunlight, causing other plants to decline and eventually die. The added weight of English Ivy can even cause trees to blow over in storms.
What to do: For English Ivy found on the ground, consistent mowing can slowly kill the vine. For climbers, pull out the Ivy with gardening gloves, removing all the roots. If you still want English Ivy, try potting it indoors.
10. Japanese Stiltgrass
Scientific name:Microstegium vimineum
What it looks like: A pale-green sprawling grass with a silvery line down the blade's center.
Why it’s a problem: Japanese Stiltgrass was introduced to North America by accident around 1920, possibly because it was used as packing material for porcelain. It releases chemicals into the soil that prevent other plants from growing around it.
What to do: Luckily, this invasive grass does not have deep roots, so you can easily pull it up by hand.
How to save on homeowners’ insurance in Georgia
Some of these Category 1 invasive plants pose a risk not just to Georgia’s natural environment—but to your home. To cover all your bases, ensure your home is protected with the right
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