Look Out For These Invasive Plants in Massachusetts

Watch out for Dame’s Rocket and Mile-a-Minute Vine, just two of the 69 invasive plants in Massachusetts. Click here for tips on how to deal with invasive plants.
Written by Matt Nightingale
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Goutweed and Fanwort are just two of the 69 invasive plant species found in Massachusetts. Here are 16 of the most annoying invasive flora this New England state has to offer.
It’s important to know how to identify and deal with Invasive plants. Weeds and unwanted herbs can dominate your yard, kill your garden, and even drive down your property value. Nipping the problem in the literal bud is very important.
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The top 10 invasive plant species in Massachusetts

1. Black Locust

Scientific name:Robinia pseudoacacia
What it looks like: A large deciduous tree with compound leaves and hanging white flowers
Why it’s a problem: The Black Locust was brought to Massachusetts in the mid-1700s to help with erosion control and for its durable wood that could be used for fencing and other agricultural purposes. Black Locust raises the nitrogen level in soils, making the ground hostile for native plants that require lower nitrogen levels.
What to do: The Black Locust invasion plants Massachusetts on the frontlines of the battle against this aggressive plant. Cut down the tree and apply a systemic herbicide to the stump to prevent regeneration. The second step may need to be repeated as the Black Locust is a resilient tree.

2. Bush Honeysuckle

Scientific name: Lonicera morrowii
What it looks like: A shrub bearing white tubular four-petaled flowers, simple opposing leaves, and shiny red berries
Why it’s a problem: Originally from Northeast China, Japan, and Korea, Bush Honeysuckle greens early in the spring before most other plants, creating a shady cover, making it impossible for native plants to receive sunlight and grow. This hinders the reforestation of cut areas and threatens the re-establishment of important local plants.
What to do: Smaller plants can be simply pulled out of the ground by hand, roots-and-all, but for larger honeysuckle plants you’ll need to use a weed wrench to dig up the roots. Alternatively, you can cut larger plants down a stump and paint the stump with a 20% glyphosate solution such as Roundup, being careful not to get the solution on any other surrounding plants.  

3. Common Barberry

Scientific name: Berberis vulgaris
What it looks like: A thorny upright shrub with red cranberry-like fruits in summer and autumn 
Why it’s a problem: Barberry shrubs were brought to America from continental Europe in the 1600s, and its berries were used for jams and dyes. Common Barberry is a known carrier of stem rust, a fungus that destroys cereal crops such as barley and wheat.
What to do: Barberry can only be eradicated by removing the plant entirely, either by digging it up with a shovel or pulling up larger plants with a chain attached to a sturdy vehicle. It is important to know that Barberry located in wetlands may be protected by Massachusetts state law.

4. Dame’s Rocket

Scientific name:Hesperis matronalis
What it looks like: A cluster of four-petaled flowers on the purple-pink-white scale, with 2- to 4-foot stems sporting alternating leaves.
Why it’s a problem: A relative of the mustard family, Dame’s Rocket came to North America in the 17th century. These flower plants are pretty—pretty annoying, as they muscle out native plants from their natural habitat.  
What to do: If you come across Dame’s Rocket, you should pull the clusters out of the ground ensuring that the roots come up with the rest of the plant

5. Garlic Mustard

Scientific name: Alliaria petiolata
What it looks like: An herb with jagged, triangular leaves and small four-petaled white flowers
Why it’s a problem: One of the most common invasive plants in Massachusetts, Garlic Mustard was brought to the US from Europe in the 1800s to be used for cooking. This plant changes the soil composition of forests, hampering the growth of other plants and interfering with tree seed germination.
What to do: Pulling up Garlic Mustard plants is the most effective way to control these plants. Herbicides can work, too, and you can even mow the plant before it produces seeds to prevent proliferation.

6. Goutweed

Scientific name:Aegopodium podagraria
What it looks like: A green, leafy herb with flower heads featuring white petaled flowerets that extend up to three feet
Why it’s a problem: Despite Goutweed’s many documented medicinal properties, Massachusetts considers it an invasive weed. The plant was brought to America from Eurasia as a decorative plant during the country’s colonization period. Goutweed forms in thick patches, invading native plants’ living space, destroying the diversity of the forest floor, and even impeding the growth of conifers and other trees.
What to do: Groutweed is notoriously resilient, so ridding yourself of this uninvited guest may take a few tries. You can cover the plant with plastic extending several feet on all sides of the plant to heat it out—this can take up to eight weeks. You can also smother the Groutweed by mowing it down and covering it with plywood extending several feet in all directions around the plant—this can take up to two years! You can also try good, old-fashioned pulling.

7. Hardy Kiwi

Scientific name:Actinidia arguta
What it looks like: A woody vine with gray bark that produces smooth green grape-like fruits
Why it’s a problem: Admired for its looks as much as the fruits it bore, Hardy Kiwi was brought to America from Japan in 1876. While the State of Massachusetts does not officially recognize the plant as an invasive species, there is a big movement to have it classified as invasive as it is known to grow rapidly and overwhelm entire trees.
What to do: Pull small vines. Larger vines should be cut close to the ground and will require an herbicide focused on the stump.

8. Kudzu

Scientific name:Pueraria montana
What it looks like: A vine featuring trifoliate leaves, purple flower clusters, and pea pod-like seeds
Why it’s a problem: Originating from Asia, Kudzu can grow up to a foot a day, smothering out local plants. 
What to do:Persistent mowing in the spring, summer, and fall months can kill Kudzu, though this method may take several years.

9. Mile-a-minute Vine 

Scientific name:Mikania micrantha
What it looks like: A vine with blueberry-like fruits and triangular leaves
Why it’s a problem: Mile-a-minute Vine was accidentally brought to the United States in 1930 on imported goods bound for a Pennsylvania landscaping company. This fast-growing vine rapidly dominates any area it sinks roots into, smothering native plants in the process.
What to do:Hand-pull small plants. Repeated mowing works, too, as do herbicides

10. Winged Euonymus 

Scientific name:Euonymus alatus
What it looks like: A bush of simple green leaves arranged in two opposing leaves per node that turn red in the fall
Why it’s a problem: AKA burning bush, Winged Euonymus has its origins in northeastern Asia, making its way to North America in the mid-1800s. This plant invades and replaces local vegetation.
What to do: Small plants can be pulled by hand, while larger plants may require cutting and herbicide treatment
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The six most invasive aquatic plants in Massachusetts

Here are six of the 12 invasive plants Massachusetts has to deal with on the regular. You can find a full list on the Massachusetts Division of Water Supply Protection website.

1. Fanwort

Scientific name:Cabomba caroliniana
What it looks like: Underwater aquatic plant with fan-like leaves and lilypad-like floating leaves
Why it’s a problem: Fanwort grows fast, displacing local aquatic plants and the aquatic life that depends on them. Fanwort also reduces the oxygen level in the areas it inhabits making the environment inhospitable for fish, reducing water quality, and driving down real estate value. 
What to do:Special aquatic rakes and cutters can be used to remove the Fanwort, however, it can reestablish itself from any remnants that you may miss. You can also fertilize your pond to produce an algal bloom that helps stop aquatic weeds from growing.

2. Hydrilla

Scientific name:Hydrilla verticillata
What it looks like: Leaves have small teeth along the edges, appearing in whorls of 3–8 along the plant stem
Why it’s a problem: Hydrilla can grow up to a foot a day, seriously disrupting fish and other aquatic plants, and serves as a nursery for mosquitos.
What to do: Mechanical methods of control are very costly, so your best bet would be to use aquatic herbicides like copper sulfate or endothall.

3. Yellow Floating Heart

Scientific name:Nymphoides peltata
What it looks like: Shiny, heart-shaped green floating leaves with five-petaled yellow flowers protruding out of the water
Why it’s a problem: Indigenous to Europe, China, India, and Japan, Yellow Floating Heart grows in thick patches creating stagnant, oxygen-poor waters that are unable to support other aquatic life.
What to do: Mechanical methods can be used to dig up the plant’s rhizomes, but this can be tricky. Herbicides like 2,4-D and Fluridone have proven very effective in combating Yellow Floating Heart.

4. South American Waterweed

Scientific name:Egeria densa
What it looks like: Bright green with 1-inch strap-shaped leaves organized into whorls of 4–8
Why it’s a problem: South American Waterweed comes to us by way of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. The plant's thick strands can impede swimming and boating, driving down the area’s recreational value. Dying Waterweed creates a low-oxygen environment, making the water uninhabitable for fish. 
What to do: Herbicides like Diquat or Fluridone work, but you must obtain a permit, and the herbicides must be applied by a licensed user. Drawdowns may also work but can affect fish in the area. 

5. European Naiad

Scientific name: Najas minor
What it looks like: Tufts of curly lime green leaves on stems of up to eight feet in length
Why it’s a problem: Najas minor grows thick near the water’s surface, blocking out sunlight for vegetation growing closer to the water’s floor, causing other aquatic plants to die off. This thick surface growth can dramatically impede the recreational use of waterways, diminishing the area’s property values. 
What to do: Mechanical methods of control can actually cause European Naiad to spread as broken fragments that drift elsewhere can produce new plants. Herbicides like Diquat and Fluridone can be used to fight off N. minor.

6. Curly-leaved Pondweed

Scientific name:Potamogeton crispus
What it looks like: Reddish-green wavy leaves approximately three inches long
Why it’s a problem: Curly-leaved Pondweed is native to Africa, Australia, and Eurasia, but made its way to America in the 1880s. This weed is able to grow in low light and low temperatures which means it gets a head start on other aquatic plants, blocking out the light for the late-bloomers. The weed grows all the way to the water’s surface making the area unusable for recreational activities.
What to do: P. crispus spreads through turions, burr-like buds that are carried by hosts to other waters, so raking your Curly-leaved Pondweed might just kick up more burrs and make the problem worse. Consider fertilization to create an algal bloom to cut off the sun to the Pondweed.

How to save on homeowners insurance in Massachusetts

Keeping invasive plants at bay is important for the environment and for your property values. Keeping up with proper yard maintenance can actually save you money. Tending to unwanted plants immediately will help keep them from getting out of control and forcing you to spend money on large removal projects.
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