Invasive Plants of Ohio
Ohio's Top Ten Invasive Plants - What You Can Do
Ohio Invasive Plants pdf
Ohio Native Species for Landscape and Restoration Use
Twenty-five years of managing Ohio's state nature preserves has brought a variety of crucial challenges for the division's preserve management staff. One of the most difficult has been the impact of invasive, non-native plants.
About one-quarter of the plants growing in Ohio originated from other parts of the continent or world. These species, often called non-native, exotic or alien, were not known to occur in Ohio prior to European settlement in the mid 1700s.
Some of Ohio's invasive plants arrived here by accident, while others were introduced for agricultural use, erosion control, horticulture, forage crops, medicinal use and food for wildlife. Some plants, such as purple loosestrife and teasel, may have been introduced by early settlers to remind themselves of "home."
Multiflora rose was once promoted by local soil and water conservation districts as a "living fence" for soil conservation and wildlife habitat. Like other species we've come to recognize as invasive, landowners soon discovered that it began to invade their fields. Before we understood the threats of invasive plants, several ODNR divisions promoted the use of bush honeysuckles and autumn-olive for wildlife habitat.
Other invasive, non-native plants are commercially available, primarily as cultivars like glossy buckthorn and Japanese honeysuckle.
What is an invasive plant?
Invasive plants are usually characterized by fast growth rates, high fruit production, rapid vegetative spread and efficient seed dispersal and germination. Since these plants are not native to Ohio, they lack the natural predators and diseases which would naturally control them in their native habitats.
Which plant species are invasive in Ohio's natural areas?
The division has compiled a list of more than 60 plants that are currently impacting nature preserves, wildlife areas, parks and forests throughout the state. Some of the top invasive non-native plants include: bush honeysuckles (Amur, Morrow and Tatarian), buckthorn (glossy and common), garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, common reed grass, reed canary grass, autumn and Russian olive, multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, narrow-leaved cattail, Canada thistle and tree-of-heaven.
Are all exotic plants invasive?
No, most non-native plants are not invasive in natural areas, which includes any area managed for natural habitats. Of the more than 700 non-native plants in Ohio, fewer than 100 are known to truly "invade" their natural settings.
Invasive plants, whether they are native or non-native, have the ability to take over native plant communities, forming monocultures and displacing native plants.
Why is plant diversity important?
If your lawn is primarily a monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass, it may be effective in maintaining a manicured look, but it will not sustain a diversity of animal species. Similarly, a wetland dominated by purple loosestrife cannot sustain a diversity of native wetland plants or animals.
A woodland dominated by garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle will not enable a variety of wildflowers to grow.
What if I have some of these plants on my property?
If those plants stay within the boundaries of your property and do not impact any adjacent natural areas, then maybe they are not a problem. If they move (by seed dispersal or vegetative means), they may invade a natural area and displace native plants.
Often, invasive plants do not appear aggressive upon initial introduction, but given the right conditions they will spread quickly over time.
Land managing agencies throughout Ohio and the United States spend immense funds and staff time controlling or eradicating invasive species to maintain natural woodlands, wetlands, prairies, savannas and lakes.
Most invasive plants are difficult to control and require the use of manual and chemical techniques. It is best to control invasive species before they dominate an area, when populations are small.
The division offers a brochure, fact sheets, an invasive plant list and a list of alternative plants, all free to the public. To learn more about invasive plants in Ohio, contact the division at (614) 265-6453.
Tackling Invasive Plants in Preserves
Managing invasive plants is a critical issue for our state nature preserves, because the very characteristics which help these plants flourish, make them difficult to control. Traditional management tools, such as hand pulling the most aggressive plants, is labor-intensive and unsuccessful at eradicating alien plants long-term.
Herbicides have become an effective tool in curbing invasive plant infestation, while protecting native plant species.
Effective techniques are only just emerging to meet an ecological challenge that will only increase as more invasive plants gain a foothold in our preserves.