Least Wanted

Invasive species: Bishop's goutweed

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A Landowner's Guide
to Invasive Plant Management

Here's a quick and handy guide with up-to-date prevention and management techniques for invasive plants in our area. (pdf; courtesty of WISP)

Least Wanted Posters
(pdfs; courtesy of WISP)
Autumn olive
Burning bush
Garlic mustard
Honeysuckle (bush)
Honeysuckle (Japanese)
Leafy spurge
Multiflora rose
Norway maple
Purple loostrife
Tree of heaven
Water chestnut
Wild parsnip

Invasive plants are common throughout the Northeast and are spreading from disturbed areas into native vegetation. Although nearly one-third of the current Massachusetts flora is not native to the state, less than 10 percent of these species are considered invasive. The number may be small, but these plants can have a very big impact on the health of our landscapes.

It's not just the ecology of our lands that are affected, but, in some cases, the agricultural, scenic, and recreational qualities of our region as well.

These invasives include herbs, shrubs, trees, and vines that grow rapidly, form dense thickets, and negatively impact native species and natural communities. Non-native invasives, such as Asian honeysuckles, Japanese barberry, autumn olive, burning bush, multiflora rose, garlic mustard, and glossy buckthorn, are considered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, New England Wildflower Society, U.S. Forest Service, and others as some of the worst invaders in the region.

In addition to the many ecological issues associated with invasive species, these plants can also degrade the scenic qualities of our natural landscapes (e.g., bittersweet choking a hedgerow of native trees), alter an otherwise intact cultural feature (e.g., goutweed taking over a formal garden), and impair agricultural activities (e.g., multiflora rose dominating a pasture, buckthorn spreading in a hayfield).

Why manage invasive plants?

Preservation of biodiversity: The loss of biodiversity is an issue of global concern. Management that protects and encourages native species, communities, and ecological processes will help maintain the biodiversity of Massachusetts. Non-native invasive plants may reduce native species diversity through direct competition. Similarly, invasive species may alter habitats and thereby impact native wildlife species.

Preservation of cultural resources, including designed gardens and landscapes, and agricultural and forest productivity. Designed landscapes require continual maintenance, often including the removal of non-native invasive “weeds.” Invasive species are also impacting the success of agricultural programs by degrading the quality of the product (e.g., hay), reducing the productivity of an area, and draining resources away from production. Examples include multiflora rose invading pastures and thereby reducing the forage available; buckthorn, bittersweet, and other woody species invading hayfields; and knotweed establishing in compost piles, thereby threatening to spread elsewhere as the compost is applied. In some instances, thick infestations of invasive shrubs have prevented seedling establishment of desirable tree species.

Prevention: The first line of defense for invasive species is prevention. The most cost-effective and complete approach to combating invasive species is to keep them from becoming established in the first place.

  • Use fill that is clean of invasive species seeds or propagules.
  • Clean equipment before transporting it between properties or habitats, especially when used in areas with known invasive species.
  • Do not plant or propagate known or potential* invasive species. Review the MA Department of Agricultural Resources’ prohibited species list.
  • Monitor new plantings, whether within designed landscapes, farms, or elsewhere, for invasives that may have been present in soils.
  • Work with neighbors to encourage these practices on abutting or neighboring parcels.

* Species that are currently known invasives in areas south of New England may migrate north as a result of climate change. As a preventative measure, the planting of these species should be avoided.


Regional partnerships are forming to deal with invasive species issues across political and jurisdictional boundaries. The Trustees are involved with the two groups currently up and running in Massachusetts: Sudbury Assabet Concord Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area and the Westfield River Watershed Invasive Species Partnership (WISP).

More resources on non-native invasive plants

Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas is a web-based project of the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group. This link connects to their series of invasive plant fact sheets. Other information on the general website includes a national list of invasive plants infesting natural areas throughout the U.S., background information on the problem of invasive species, and selected links to relevant people and organizations.

Invasive Plant Atlas of New England: The atlas is a comprehensive web-accessible database of invasive and potentially invasive plants in New England. The database is continually updated by a network of professionals and trained volunteers. It details basic information on a large number of species including keys to identification, distribution in NE (with online maps), and their impact on native systems. An important focus of the project is the early detection of, and rapid response to, new invasions.

Fact sheets from the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area Forest Health Protection program: include information about specific invasive plants that exist in the Northeastern United States.

Information from The Nature Conservancy on invasive plant management: This website by The Nature Conservancy in Vermont has great resources and guides for individual landowners trying to manage invasive plants.

Invasive plant information and resources for Massachusetts Conservation Commissions: This site includes good general information on invasive species, links to other resources, and identification guides.

Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States: Identification and control. This site is an online version of the booklet of the same name. It includes good photos of the invasive plants as well as links to many invasive plant websites.


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Submitted by Jambri on: July 8, 2014
Great Post thank you

Submitted by jide on: March 15, 2014
Very good article thank you...

Submitted by Sophia Walz on: February 28, 2014
What this article describes is a sound and pragmatic approach, even though a real understanding of each plant's interaction with other lifeforms remains difficult. Some flowers - pretty ones even - are also considered invasive, even though most people aren't aware of that (for instance the purple loosestrife or bush honeysuckle). Nice read - thanks. Sophia Flower delivery

Submitted by Girish Rao on: May 17, 2012
I think you are going about this the wrong way. Just removing Invasives will not cut it. Please add pictures of Native New-England plants, so that folks can identify those too and immediately plant the natives where the invasives have been removed. In my opinion folks need to appreciate the Natives first before they will go out and remove the Invasives. Otherwise you run the risk of well meaning folks removing the Natives along with the invasives. Thank you. PS: I am a trustees supporting member and do a lot of volunteering at the Ward reservation.

Submitted by Link on: May 17, 2012
This is a GREAT page of information about invasive plants. Thak you TTOR! and thank you, Meg for you mention of Tallamy's important work.

Submitted by Meg on: May 16, 2012
It's not just about "biodiversity"; invasive plants can threaten the survival of the entire food chain. I wrote about this issue and Doug Tallamy's work on native plants and insects here: http://www.greenspaceboston.com/2012/05/16/the-massachusetts-invasive-species-war-is-justified/