Look Out For These Invasive Plants in Maryland

Check your property for the Asiatic Tearthumb and water hyacinth, two of the most invasive plants in Maryland.
Written by James Ellaby
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
From the Oriental Bittersweet to the rock snot and English Ivy, here’s a rundown of 16 of the most invasive plant species in Maryland
Maryland’s proximity to Washington DC and stunning coastline make it a great place to live. But like any state, there’s a menace that you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about moving there. We’re talking about invasive non-native plants that could put your home in danger or reduce the value of your property.
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The top 10 invasive plant species in Maryland

1. Sweet Autumn Virginsbower

Scientific name: Clematis terniflora
What it looks like: A climbing, perennial vine with showy, fragrant white flowers
Why it’s a problem: It may have a cute name and look harmless enough, but this non-native vine invades edges and open areas. It then grows vigorously over other plants, forming a dense blanket effect that blocks out sunlight to anything below. It’s got to go. 
What to do: Vines can need a combination of methods to get rid of them—mixing up manual labor, mechanical tools, and chemicals. Cutting the stems and adding a herbicide is usually the best way with the lowest risk of damaging other plants around it. 

2. Bamboo

Scientific name: Bambusa vulgaris
What it looks like: It looks like… bamboo—woody stems that usually grow between 7-8 feet
Why it’s a problem: Bamboo isn’t native to Maryland, and it can quickly form dense thickets that displace and prevent native plants from growing. 
What to do: Try and remove emerging bamboo stems in spring when they are tender and easily damaged with a shovel or even your foot. Waiting until they are grown makes it harder and requires a tool strong enough to cut through their tough stems.

3. English Ivy

Scientific name: Hedera helix
What it looks like: An evergreen climbing vine that clings to pretty much anything and everything
Why it’s a problem: Ivy spreads wherever it wants to go—and while it can look appealing on the side of your home, it can also do a lot of damage. This is especially a problem with older properties where it can get in through weakened mortar, exploit weaknesses, and create all kinds of problems.
What to do: English Ivy is tough and stubborn to remove. Its waxy leaves can make it resistant to herbicides, so the best approach is the hardest one: pulling it up yourself by hand and removing making sure there are no stems or roots left in the ground. Otherwise, like a bad guy in a horror movie, it’ll come back.

4. Wineberry

Scientific name: Rubus phoenicolasius
What it looks like: A shrub with many stems covered in small, reddish hairs, with clusters of bright red berries in early summer
Why it’s a problem: Wineberry might sound bucolic and charming, but it is aggressive and invades open spaces. When there, it forms dense and shady thickets that displace native plants and change the habitat to make sure they don’t come back.
What to do: A four-tong spading fork can be a good tool for removing wineberry plants, but make sure you also remove any berries that fall—otherwise, they could reseed.

5. Kudzu

Scientific name: Pueraria montana var. lobata
What it looks like: A climbing vine with thick stems, enormous roots, and upright purple flower clusters
Why it’s a problem: Kudzu grows big and it grows fast—as rapidly as one foot per day. You need to keep an eye on this plant before it takes over your home or garden behind your back.
What to do: Cut the vines at the base rather than trying to tackle them higher up. Use a handsaw to cut into the crown and treat it with herbicide.

6. Asiatic Tearthumb

Scientific name: Persicaria perfoliata
What it looks like: A trailing vine with delicate-looking stems with barbs (hence the name!) and small white flowers on nodes at the stems
Why it’s a problem: Invades open areas and quickly grows—it’s also known as Mile-a-Minute—into a thick tangle that covers and kills other plants. 
What to do: You can remove young vines by hand, wearing gloves so you don’t tear your thumbs. The best way to control it, though, is with the systemic use of herbicides.

7. Japanese Honeysuckle

Scientific name:Lonicera japonica
What it looks like: Twining vines with red hairy stems and frilly white or yellow flowers
Why it’s a problem: American honeysuckle has tubular reddish flowers and is a delightful-smelling native plant. Japanese honeysuckle is a delightful-smelling invasive plant capable of growing so voraciously that it can actually pull down trees.
What to do: If you find Japanese honeysuckle on your property, dig it up by the roots or apply herbicide. When buying honeysuckle, check to ensure that you are actually receiving the American variety.

8. Oriental Bittersweet

Scientific name: Celastrus orbiculatus
What it looks like: A climbing vine that can be up to 60 feet long with light green leaves, small white flowers, and scarlet berries in fall and winter
Why it’s a problem: The ‘bittersweet’ thing about this plant is that it takes over anywhere it finds itself, shading and outcompeting other plants—and even sometimes taking down trees.
What to do: Oriental Bittersweet is a hard opponent to defeat. Victory will only come after removing every trace of it, treating the vines with herbicide, and getting rid of any seeds before they have a chance to resurrect the vine.

9. Porcelain Berry

Scientific name: Ampelopsis grandulosa
What it looks like: A woody vine that can reach 20 feet long with rough-edged leaves, clusters of flowers, and berries in the summertime
Why it’s a problem: Another non-native species that suffocates native rivals by blocking out the sunlight with a blanket effect. You can tell it from native varieties because of the white, starchy flesh of the grapes.
What to do: You need to take care when removing this vine from young trees and shrubs because it can be very easy to damage them in the process. Sever the vines at the base and kill them with herbicides.

10. Lesser Celandine

Scientific name: Ficaria verna
What it looks like: Buttercups with bright yellow flowers
Why it’s a problem: A meadow blanketed with buttercups might look and sound lovely, but this is an aggressive, non-native species that blocks out other species. It grows and spreads very quickly.
What to do: It can be hard work, but manual removal is the best method. Make sure you remove everything and bag it up rather than composting the remains—otherwise you risk simply moving the infestation.
MORE: How to find a roof leak quickly

The five most invasive aquatic plants in Maryland

Here are five of the most invasive non-native aquatic plants in Maryland. 

1. Rock Snot

Scientific name: Didymosphenia geminata
What it looks like: Also known as Didymo, Rock Snot looks like its name suggests—an algae that covers rocks and grows on the bottom of rivers and lakes in mat-like blooms
Why it’s a problem: Rock Snot spreads quickly and can be spread by human activity like fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. It threatens aquatic habits and biodiversity by choking out organisms that live on the river and lake beds, thereby cutting off food for fish.
What to do: As human activity plays such a role in its spread, you can do your bit by inspecting and cleaning boats and gear to limit its ability to invade new territories.

2. Brazilian Waterweed

Scientific name: Egeria densa
What it looks like: A perennial plant with bright green leaves and stems
Why it’s a problem: Brazilian waterweed successfully invades new aquatic environments and outcompetes native vegetation. It forms dense mats that limit sunlight below the surface, reducing oxygen and killing fish and invertebrates.
What to do: Herbicides are the best way to control Brazilian Waterweed. Grass Carp are also apparently partial to eating it.

3. Parrot Feather

Scientific name: Myriophyllum aquaticum
What it looks like: A popular aquarium plant that spread out into the wild with red-tined stems and waxy green leaves
Why it’s a problem: Parrot Feather causes dense mats of vegetation, blocking out any competitors and starving them of light and nutrients. It can also clog drainage ditches and block boat passage.
What to do: Its waxy leaves make herbicide a less effective treatment. The best way to remove Parrot Feather is to rake it from the pond—but any parts that fall off in the process risk regrowth.

4. Hydrilla

Scientific name: Hydrilla verticillata
What it looks like: Vast tangles of underwater weeds made up of long tendrils and saw-toothed leaves
Why it’s a problem: Hydrilla poses major threats not just to Maryland wildlife, but also to homeowners. It can reduce property values due to its effects on navigation and recreation, as well as the natural environment. 
What to do: Pull and harvest hydrilla wherever you find it. 

5. Water hyacinth

Scientific name:Eichhornia crassipes
What it looks like: Floating plant with smooth, dark green leaves and ruffled purple flowers
Why it’s a problem: Water hyacinth displaces native plants and animals, attracts mosquitoes, and prevents the decomposition of debris. It degrades water quality as it grows at alarming rates, which can lower property values. 
What to do: Hand-pull when you find it and dispose of the remains safely—and never plant water hyacinths in a water garden. 

How to save on homeowners’ insurance in Maryland

All of the plants on this list are a threat to Maryland’s natural environment, but a few pose risks to homeowners, too. If you find any evidence of vines or ivy starting to cause structural damage to your home, it’s time to update your insurance to make sure you’ve got the
homeowners coverage
you need.
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