Some of the Most Common Invasive Plants in Ohio

From kudzu to the multiflora rose, these are some of the most persistent invasive species in Ohio.
Written by David Ghanizadeh-Khoob
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
From garlic mustard to the tree-of-heaven to kudzu, these are 12 of the most invasive plant species in Ohio. This is by no means an exhaustive list but includes some of the most common invasive plants in the state.
Some invasive plants might look beautiful, but they are harmful to the health of the ecosystem and in some cases can cause more than just gardening pains or eyesores on your property. If you are a current or prospective Ohio resident, keep an eye out for these invasive plants, and do your part to help control their spread.
To help introduce you to Ohio’s invasive plants,
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The most invasive plant species in Florida

Garlic mustard

Scientific name: Alliaria petiolata
What it looks like: In its first year: low-lying kidney-shaped, wrinkly-looking leaves. In its second year: triangular leaves with wavy toothed edges and 2-4 foot tall stalks with clusters of small four-petaled white flowers.
Why it’s a problem: Garlic mustard reduces the growth of wildflowers and suppresses fungi in the soil. Effectively this weakens the forest floor and makes the habitat less viable for native species.
What to do: Garlic mustard was originally introduced in gardens as a source of food and for its medicinal benefits. You can do your part by not introducing it to your garden and by removing clusters that you encounter. Hand-pulling, cutting, and controlled burning are effective. Try to pull out the entire root system or cut it close to the ground and remove cut materials from the site.

Multiflora rose

Scientific name: Rosa multiflora
What it looks like:Rosa multiflora is a thorny shrub with sharply toothed leaflets that blossoms small, fragrant white to pale pink flowers, and develops small bright red fruits.
Why it’s a problem: Multiflora roses crowd out native species in dense thickets. Their fruits are favored by birds and the average plant will produce about a million seeds, allowing the plant to spread across vast distances and take over a wide range of habitats.
What to do: Hand-pulling is effective for small clusters, but care should be taken to remove the entire root system (and to avoid thorns). Herbicides and biological management using the Rose rosette virus are effective for large, dense patches.

Bush honeysuckles (amur, Tatarian, and morrow honeysuckles)

Scientific names:Lonicera maackii, Lonicera tatarica, Lonicera morrowii
What they look like: Upright, deciduous shrubs ranging from 6-15 feet tall that develop small, fragrant, tubular flowers and produce clusters of small, round berries. They appear similar to two native honeysucklesDiervilla lonicera and Lonicera canadensis. A key difference is that the branches of the invasive honeysuckles have a hollow pith, while the native honeysuckles have solid stems.
Why they are a problem: These invasive honeysuckles spread easily and readily, and leaf out early in the spring, shading out many native plants.
What to do: Bush honeysuckles have shallow root systems, so can be picked out relatively easily. If you cut the bushes instead of pulling them, they will need to be cut at least one more time that year or else they can produce even more dense patches.

Oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle

Scientific names: Celastrus orbiculatus andLonicera japonica
What they look like: Both are vines. Oriental bittersweet have finely toothed leaves and produce yellow berries. Japanese honeysuckles have hairy stems and produce white to pink tubular petals.
Why they are a problem: These vines are fast-growing and can quickly cover large areas of ground or tree tops. They limit sunlight availability and weigh down trees, making them more susceptible to wind damage.
What to do: Hand pulling and cutting can be effective where possible, but cutting will have to be repeated and materials should be removed. Herbicides can be effective for large populations.

Kudzu

Scientific name:Pueraria montana
What it looks like: Semi-woody vine with alternating leaves made of three oval or lobed leaflets. Produces purple or red flowers in its third year.
Why it’s a problem: You may have heard of kudzu before because it has gained a reputation for absolutely taking over large areas across the US and Canada. It is fast-growing and out-competes almost all other plant life.
What to do: The best way to help control kudzu is to prevent it from spreading. Herbicides, prescribed burning, livestock grazing, and persistent weeding are all effective methods.

Tree-of-heaven

Scientific name: Ailanthus altissima
What it looks like: A large dioecious tree that can reach up to 80 feet tall. It has gray bark that darkens with age, brown branches with 11-41 leaflets, and large yellow or greenish flower clusters.
Why it’s a problem: These trees produce hundreds of thousands of seeds allowing them to spread easily. Saplings grow much faster than any surrounding native plant species, out-competing them. Plus, their roots give off a toxin that inhibits the growth of other plants.
What to do: Cutting is not effective for managing these trees. Saplings can be pulled, preferably when the soil is moist. Selective herbicide application is the most effective means of control. A species of moth (Atteva punctella) has also been found to feed exclusively on the tree-of-heaven and may be an effective biological control.

Common and glossy buckthorns

Scientific name: Rhamnus cathartica, Frangula alnus
What they look like: Woody shrubs that can reach up to 20 feet tall. Both produce dark purple-black fruits.
Why they are a problem: Both of these species of buckthorns tend to form dense thickets that crowd out all other native plants, often completely displacing them from their habitat.
What to do: Cutting or mowing can cause patches to grow more dense, so should be avoided. Hand-pulling can be effective for small patches, but selective herbicide use is the most effective way of handling patches of buckthorns.

Autumn olive

Scientific name: Elaeagnus umbellata
What it looks like: Deciduous shrub that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has small, fragrant light yellow flowers in late spring and small, round, reddish fruits in the summer.
Why it’s a problem: Autumn olives are capable of living in a wide range of environments, even nutrient-poor soils. Its resilience and alluring fruit have allowed it to spread to a diverse range of habitats, out-competing the native plant life. 
What to do: Autumn olive bounces back easily from cutting or burning. Manual removal is effective, but any exposed roots should be cut below the soil and buried. Herbicide application is the most effective means of control and can be applied to the foliage, cut stems, or bark at the base of the stems.

Japanese knotweed

Scientific name: Fallopia japonica
What it looks like: A shrubby, herbaceous perennial with bamboo-like stems.
Why they are a problem: Like most other plants on this list, Japanese knotweed is mostly a problem because it spreads easily and forms dense thickets, crowding out native species.
What to do: Manual removal is not recommended with these bushes because their thickets are so large and dense. Mowing and cutting are effective but will have to be repeated multiple times over the year.

Canada thistle

Scientific name: Cirsium arvense
What it looks like: An herbaceous perennial with 1-4 foot stems with spiny lavender-colored leaves.
Why they are a problem: The Canada thistle is a very hardy plant. Its seeds spread easily in the wind and remain viable for up to 20 years. Their seeds coupled with their deep roots make them difficult to eradicate. 
What to do: Herbicide use is the most effective means of control, best applied to foliage after mowing. Its deep roots make it difficult to manage to require it to be cut multiple times. Of course, in wild areas where Canada thistle is interspersed with native plants herbicide use must be targeted with care.

White and yellow sweet-clover

Scientific name: Melilotus albus, Melilotus officinalis
What it looks like: Upright bushy biennials that have small thin leaves and long clusters of small white or yellow flowers forming an irregular-looking spike at the tip of the stem.
Why they are a problem: Sweet clovers have some benefits. They can be used as animal feed (butif the fodder molds it can be deadly to livestock), they are a source of nectar for bees, and they can rejuvenate nitrogen levels in the soil. That said, they are resilient, grow super readily, are drought resistant, and are difficult to eradicate. Like any invasive wildflower, for it to be successful (these are now in all 50 states) it must outcompete native species.
What to do: It can’t be pulled easily because of its brittle stems, and controlled burning would have to be done in consecutive years, or else the plant can grow more readily. Applying herbicide to foliage is the most effective means of control.

Purple loosestrife

Scientific name: Lythrum salicaria
What it looks like: An erect perennial that can reach 3-6 feet in height. It blooms small magenta flowers that form in long clusters around the tip of the stem.
Why they are a problem: While these invasive plants may be pretty, they are still problematic. They form dense bushes with up to 50 stems sprouting from a single root system and produce tons of seeds allowing them to take over large areas of land, crowding out other species.
What to do: Hand-pulling is only effective for new infestations and smaller clusters of plants, but the foliar application of herbicides can be very effective. These are biennial plants (they survive for two years) and control efforts in the first year are much more effective.
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You should be aware of any of the plants on this list, and do what you can to keep them off your property to help stop them from spreading into wild habitats. Fortunately, none of these plants pose a serious risk to your health or to the safety of your home. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take steps toward protecting your home from the things that do pose a risk.
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