Category Archives: Species profiles

A burning problem: burning bush

bbush1Burning bush, Euonymus alatus is a deciduous shrub that grows to 6-20 feet tall and wide.  Despite its invasive nature, it is widely available in the nursery industry and wildly popular with homeowners.  Burning bush is fast growing and easy to spread.   Burning bush can be an attractive hedge or foundation shrub in the yard, but it will also invade a variety of natural sites including high quality woodlands, wetlands and even prairies.  Once established, it forms dense thickets that displace native species and hinder natural succession.  Burning bush is native to Asia and was first introduced into the US in the 1860’s for its red fall color.  It continues to be sold and planted as an ornamental, even though it is considered one of the top invasive exotic species in the Midwest to avoid by most experts.

It has been widely planted as an ornamental for its spectacular red autumn foliage, fruits and for its tolerance to salt.  It spreads from seed, is dispersed by birds and colonizes by root suckers.  It thrives in the shade where it displaces spring wildflowers and other natives.  It is a very adaptable plant and can thrive in a variety of sites, wreaking havoc on a variety of native ecosystems.

Seedlings and young plants can be hand-pulled when the soil is moist to insure removal of the roots system.  The shallow and fibrous root systems can be removed with a spading fork and pulled with a weed wrench.  On larger plants cutting alone results in thicker, more dense re-growth.  Cutting should only be followed by painting the stump with a herbicide.

It can be effectively controlled using any of several readily available herbicides such as glyphosate (RoundUp),  tryclopyr or imazapyr.  Foliar application has proven effective in controlling these species, but requires more herbicide and can have greater impacts to non-target species.    By cutting the shrubs and painting just the stumps, burning bush and many other invasive exotics can be controlled using less chemicals.  Always read and follow the product label and understand Federal and State requirements.

While burning bush is an attractive plant, there are many more, more attractive native shrubs.  When considering planting, select native plants.  Native plants are adapted to local conditions and will usually do better over time than non-native species.  They also provide additional ecological benefits in addition to adding color and character to the yard.  There are several native plants available in nurseries with vibrant red fall color.  These include Virginia sweetspire, some viburnums, some serviceberries, black gum, Virginia creeper, hazelnut and currants.

Article by Ann Bonner


Beauty becomes the beast

5479587Have you been wondering what the dense stands of attractive purple flowers are that you’ve been seeing along roadsides and wet areas? It is probably purple loosestrife, a quite attractive plant.  However, beneath this superficial beauty lies an aggressive, untamable beast.  If left uncontrolled, purple loosestrife will take over our remaining wetlands.

Native to Europe and Asia, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) was speculated to be first introduced to the United States from colonial settlers as ship ballast was unloaded from their sailing ships.  Additionally, horticulturists imported seeds for landscaping and gardens.

Purple loosestrife grows in dense stands along waterways and wetlands, choking out native wetland species.  Thick growth can reduce water flow by clogging drainage ditches. With a seed production as high as 2 million per plant, the ability to reproduce from fragments of its stem, and a high tolerance to water and variability to soils it has spread across most of the United States and can be found in many areas in Ohio.  Once established, an individual plant can often live as long as 20 years.

5445973Showy magenta to purplish flowers with 5-7 petals on long 4- 18 inch spikes makes this an easy plant to identify from July to September. Leaves are attached to the stem in sets of two or three.  Stems typically have 4 or 6 sides and are slightly hairy.  In the fall, leaves turn vibrant red in color. Plants often have up to 50 stems of up to 8 feet tall, with the whole plant sometimes as wide as 5 feet. No other wetland plants will create dense stands and have purplish flowers.

5479722Ohio regulations prohibit the sale of purple loosestrife without a special permit from the Director of the Department of Agriculture.  Although some sterile varieties of purple loosestrife are available, they often produce viable seeds when cross pollinated with other cultivars.  If the look of purple loosestrife is what you want for your landscape, play it safe and consider using these native alternatives: Blazing stars (Liatris spp.), bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), swamp verbena (Verbena hastata), joe-pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), and cardinalflower (Lobelia cardinalis).

You can find additional information here:  If you are interested in volunteering to map purple loosestrife this summer or have any additional questions contact Eric Boyda at or 740-534-6578.

Knotweeds are weeds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough many plant species are in bloom this time of year, you may have noticed one particularly imposing species that has seemingly taken over lowland areas, mowed hill sides, and roadways. Showy sprays of small white flowers along the branches of this plant make it easy to recognize from a distance. Not to mention that it is a robust perennial herb that grows in dense patches, often to a height of 3-12 feet. Although this plant’s name may make you think otherwise, Japanese k”not”weed is a weed!

foundationJapanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) was introduced to the United States, from Asia, in the 1800s as an ornamental plant where it had been used for erosion control and landscape screening. However, the tall, dense growth habit of this plant species drastically alters the landscape by out-competing other vegetation, which decreases available food and habitat for wildlife. It can also interfere with water drainage, degrade pastures, and cause structural damage by sprouting through nearby pavement and foundations. During the dormant season, infested areas become covered in a dense mat of dried stems that create a fire hazard.

underground rhizomes

underground rhizomes

Japanese knotweed tolerates a variety of ecological conditions but prefers wet soil in low places along streams and rivers. It aggressively spreads by rhizomatous roots and stem fragments that are transported by stream bank erosion, through mechanical treatment efforts, such as mowing, and by rhizome contaminated fill dirt.

Once established, Japanese knotweed is extremely difficult to control; so, it is important for landowners to detect new infestations early and begin treatment right away. Identification of Japanese knotweed is easy this time of year because of the showy white sprigs of small flowers. Stems are reddish, hollow, and jointed at a swollen node. The leaves are 6 inches long, broad and oval-shaped with a pointed tip. They are alternately attached to the stem, which dies back each fall, growing a new stem the next year.

Another knotweed species, giant knotweed (Polygonum sachalinense), is known to occur in our area and can hybridize with Japanese knotweed to form, Bohemian knotweed (Polygonum x bohemicum). Both giant knotweed and Bohemian knotweed are similar in appearance to Japanese knotweed.

Visit and for more information on Japanese Knotweed, giant knotweed, Bohemian knotweed, and other invasive species. You can also contact Eric Boyda of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership by phone at 740-534-6578 or email at Article author: Aurora Roemmich

Help stop hydrilla from invading Ohio’s inland bodies of water

5392216Have you been noticing the dense thick mats of vegetation growing along the Ohio River? You probably have fouled your motor boat prop while boating through it or noticed your favorite fishing spot being overrun. If given the opportunity, hydrilla will overrun almost any body of water.

Thought to be native to India and Korea, hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) was first introduced to the U. S. in the 1950s for use in aquariums. Some of the hydrilla spread can be attributed to aquarium hobbyists discarding unwanted aquarium systems into natural water bodies. However, hydrilla is mostly spread by vegetation fragments that get caught in boats and boating equipment. Since the 1950s, hydrilla has spread throughout much of the United States where it is confined to slow-moving, freshwater bodies, such as the Ohio River and the Florida Everglades.

5345046Hydrilla affects the ecosystem by altering water chemistry, which can lead to large fish-killing events. It requires less sunlight to produce food, giving it a competitive advantage over native vegetation; in addition, it grows in a dense mat that shades-out other submersed plant species. Hydrilla reduces water flow by clogging irrigation and flood-control canals and culverts; and has become a major obstacle in hydroelectric generation. Economic costs of hydrilla are estimated in the millions due to lost recreational opportunities, and maintenance costs associated with irrigation and hydroelectric works.

5396743To identify hydrilla, look for submersed plants forming dense mats at the surface of the water.  Leaves are small, green, slightly translucent, and often have saw-like edges. The mid veins of the leaves are often tinged red and have sharp teeth. Leaves are attached to the stem in whorls of 4-8, but predominately 5. Vegetation near the surface has a pipe cleaner like appearance that is approximately one inch in diameter. If the plant is dug up, a small potato like tuber can be found under the mud.

Because colonies often start near boat ramps, it is important to prevent the transportation of this nuisance species and clean all recreational equipment.  When you leave a body of water:

  • Remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment
  • Eliminate water from all equipment before transporting (motor, livewell, baitbucket, boots, and waders)
  • Clean and dry anything that came in contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc) with hot water that is at least 104 degrees (for dogs, use as warm of water as possible and brush its coat) or a high pressure sprayer.  If possible, allow to dry for 5 days before moving to a new body of water.
  • Never release plants, fish, or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.

More information about hydrilla can be found at:

King County:

 University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants:

Washington State Department of Ecology:

To report any inland populations of hydrilla not on the Ohio River or to have any additional questions answered, contact Eric Boyda at or 740-534-6578.   

Autumn Olive: Good Intentions Gone Bad

Autumn olive is an introduced species that was and still is widely planted with good intentions without the foresight of the consequent problems. This mistake has resulted in an invasive species to the eastern United States that is very hard to control. Autumn olive has become invasive from Maine south to South Carolina west to Oklahoma, and north to southwest Minnesota. Autumn olive is native to China, Japan, and Korea and was originally introduced to North America in 1830.

5455374Autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellate, is a medium to large deciduous shrub. Its leaves alternate along the stem, are oval to lanceolate with smooth edges, and grow to 1-3 inches in length. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green to grayish-green in color, while the lower surface is silvery white. The small, round, juicy, editable fruits are reddish to pink and produced in great quantity.

5455552 It exhibits prolific fruiting and aggressive growth which helps it to out-compete and displace native plant species. It is widely disseminated by birds though its seeds do not provide them with the proper nutrition. Autumn olive, like soybeans, can improve soil by adding nitrogen, although it is not in the legume family. This can adversely affect the nitrogen cycle of native communities that may depend on low nitrogen soils. It is drought-tolerable and will tolerate low pH soils often found in southern Ohio. These characteristics help it survive on reclaimed strip mine land or even bare mineral substrates.

Autumn olive invades grasslands and pastures, open areas, and disturbed areas. It does not grow well in wet areas or under the shade of an established forest. It can germinate in thickly matted grasslands and thrive even though it has severe competition.

Autumn olive is dispersed mainly by birds and mammals dropping the seeds. Each plant produces 20,000 to 54,000 seeds per year. It can also reproduce through the roots by root clones. Due to this it can regenerate after a fire or cutting; even coming back thicker than before.

Due to the large available seed bank Autumn olive is becoming a problem in pasture fields. It is one of several invasive species that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is assisting landowners in controlling. Contact your local NRCS office for further information about this program.

Visit the this OSU factsheet on Autumn Olive for further information and control options. You can also contact Eric Boyda of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership by phone at 740-534-6578 or email at Photo Credit: Leslie Mehrhoff. Author: Alan Rees

Garlic mustard: Salad days for an invasive plant

Washington Post article about garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata):

Escaping Ornamentals…Is your garden spreading into the countryside?

Burning bush excaping

Burning bush excaping

We all want our yards to look nice and many of us enjoy planting and caring for the plants that enhance our landscapes. Gardeners do important work, but can be unknowing spreaders of some dangerous non-native invasive species. From bush honeysuckle, barberry, burningbush and ornamental grasses, gardeners are often responsible for the spread of these invasive species into Ohio’s natural areas.

Burningbush, or Euonymus alata is one of our most popular landscape shrubs. Burningbush is nicely shaped and attractive all year, but in the fall, it sparks to life with vibrant red foliage. This shrub’s color and because it seeds well and is easy to dig make it popular among gardeners.

But burningbush has a dark side. It is an invasive species; a non-native species whose introduction causes economic, human, and/or environmental harm. In the case of burningbush, it spreads out beyond our yards into the surrounding woods displacing native shrubs and tree seedlings. Once established, burningbush grows so densely that it out-competes most native plants. With native plants diminished, the wildlife suffers and the ecosystem starts to unravel.

Japanese barberry

Japanese barberry

Several other gardening favorites have the same bad habit of spreading into natural areas. These include bush honeysuckle, privet, Japanese barberry, autumn olive, and ornamental grasses like Miscanthus

Bush honeysuckles are prolific shrubs with fragrant spring flowers and red fall berries. They blanket roadsides, waste areas, and many wooded yards and parks. Japanese barberry is a small shrub with purplish foliage and small thorns, tending to grow in shady woodland sites. Autumn olive is a large shrub that can reach 15 feet and infiltrates woodland edges. Ornamental grasses create thick mats in waste areas and prairies and create fire hazards.

Some might question the damage that invasive species cause. Green is good, right? But in nature not all plants are created equal. While these invasive species have berries that are eaten by wildlife, research shows that the nutrient content in honeysuckle and autumn olive fruit is inferior to native fruit like viburnum, Virginia creeper, sassafras, and spice bush. 

So if you have these invasive species in your garden, consider removing and replacing them with native plants. Several native shrubs have beautiful fall color, nice flowers, nutrient rich berries, and ecosystem benefits. These include Virginia sweetspire, smooth or fragrant sumac, nannyberry viburnum, arrowwood viburnum, blackhaw viburnum.

The good news is that invasive species are controllable. They typically pull out of the ground easily after a rain. Big ones can be cut down and their stumps treated with an approved herbicide. The best way to keep them from returning is to fill the spot with desirable vegetation. As with all things, it is easier to deal with them when they are small and few and far between as opposed to waiting until you have an infestation.

To learn more about these invasive species visit these links:

burning bush

bush honeysuckle


Japanese barberry

autumn olive


You can also contact Eric Boyda of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership by phone at 740-534-6578 or email at  Article author: Ann Bonner

More Findings on the Link Between Japanese Barberry and Lyme Disease

Interesting article about why  japanese barberry should be controlled.


Garlic-mustard, not a deli condiment

Garlic mustard flowersApril will soon be here, bringing the colors and fragrance of spring flowers, but also the unwelcome annual bloom of garlic mustard. While its name may sound like a spicy condiment, garlic mustard is actually one of Ohio’s worst invasive weeds.

Native to Europe and Asia, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was introduced into New York in the 1860s and spread rapidly. It is now abundant in the northeastern and central U.S., including Ohio. It tends to move in initially along rivers, roads and trails and then spread out from there. The seeds may be carried in bits of mud on people’s shoes, as well as by floodwaters and roadway mowing equipment.

Garlic mustard grows in a wide range of habitats but especially thrives in moist, shady woodlands, where it crowds out native wildflowers. Producing up to 800 seeds per plant, yielding as many as 1800 seedlings per square foot of ground, it quickly forms dense patches. Once it arrives, a diverse forest understory can quickly become a solid stand of garlic mustard. It has few natural enemies in North America; even the deer won’t eat it. Garlic mustard also contains chemicals that suppress the fungal partners (called mycorrhizae) that most plants—but not garlic mustard—depend on to help them absorb water and minerals from the soil. These chemicals even suppress everyone’s favorite spring mushroom, Morels.

Garlic mustard basal rosettesGarlic mustard is a biennial. It spends its first year as a low-growing rosette of yellowish-green, wrinkly-veiny leaves. The following spring, the stems rapidly lengthen and produce clusters of small, white, cross-shaped flowers. The flower clusters are initially flat-topped but become elongate as the shoot continues to grow. The flowers develop into narrowly cylindrical green fruits, which eventually turn brown and release their seeds, after which the plant dies. Garlic mustard is easily distinguished by its kidney-shaped to triangular, prominently veiny leaves with a garlicky odor when crushed.

Garlic mustard fruitIt is important to watch for garlic mustard and remove it as soon as it colonizes a site. Small patches can easily be pulled up by hand, and a weed-whip is helpful with larger infestations. However, this treatment must be repeated annually because the seeds may remain viable in the soil for five to ten years. Plants should ideally be pulled up or cut at ground level before or shortly after they start flowering. If the fruits have already started to form, then either the pulled plants should be bagged and removed or the fruits should be removed from each plant as it is pulled up. Fruits that are left attached to the plant sometimes continue development and release seeds even though the root is no longer in the ground. Larger populations may require the assistance of chemical herbicides.

Additional information about the ID and control of garlic mustard can be found in this OSU-E garlic mustard factsheet or watching this video by our partners in West Virginia.

 Additional questions can be answered by contacting Eric Boyda at or 740-534-6578. Article written by Phil Cantino.

A new year brings a new invasive plant to Appalachia Ohio

A new offender is invading Appalachia Ohio. The offender’s painfully sharp prickles are known to cut into human and animal skin, earning it a nickname of “tearthumb”. Its aggressive growth of up to 6 inches a day should be a concern to any landowner in the area. The culprit: mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum perfoliatum).

Native to Eastern Asia, mile-a-minute vine was first introduced to Pennsylvania in the late 1930’s, contaminating a shipment of rhododendrons. Despite control efforts, mile-a-minute vine has become established in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia and now is expanding across the Ohio River into Ohio and is has currently been found in both Washington and Lawrence Counties.

5273092Growth of mile-a-minute vine is rapid and can easily crowd out native flowers, shrubs, and tree saplings or seedlings. This aggressive growth can prevent forest regeneration after timber harvest, interrupt Christmas tree farming, and has a potential to become a pest in plant nurseries and agricultural production. Spines along the stem and leaves can make a recreational walk through the forest painful and unpleasant. With the abundance of multiflora roses, briars, and brambles in Appalachia Ohio, the last thing the area needs is another plant covered with spines. If mile-a-minute vine is left alone and continues to spread and multiply it will hurt the economy of our region by impacting the timber industry, agricultural production, and recreation. Mile-a-minute vine aggressively invades fields, roadsides, right-of-ways, forest edges, open woodlands, stream banks, and moist meadows. Birds are the principal long distance carriers of seeds, although it has been found to be dispersed by ants, deer, chipmunks, and squirrels. Mile-a-minute fruit is able to maintain buoyancy for up to 7-9 days which allows long-distance travel downstream.

The best characteristics for identifying mile-a-minute vine are its distinctive equilateral triangular shaped leaves and downward facing spines covering the underside of leaves and stems. These spines will stick to clothing and tear at skin. The leaves are approximately 1-3 inches wide, green, waxy, and arranged alternately up the stem. Spaced along and surrounding the stems are cup shaped structures called ocreas. From these ocreas, small white flowers bloom that eventually develop into small, metallic blue fruits about the size of a pea.

To report sightings of mile-a-minute vine outside of Washington County, contact Eric Boyda at 740-534-6578 or More information about the control of mile-a-minute can be found here.