Blog Archives

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

Online Minnesota Noxious Weed Guide: a helpful resource to Appalachia Ohio

Minnesota Noxious Weed Guide – online version 2013 updates are complete and it has been posted. It remains at the following link:

The old version has the purple loosestrife on the cover – the 2013 version has non-native phragmites and includes newly listed species.

Although this guide is from Minnesota, it has significant overlap with species found here in Appalachia Ohio and is a good reference to explore.

Local author to release new native plant landscaping book March 28th

Frank Porter, a local author and native plant landscaping expert, is pleased to announce the publication of his new book, Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants.

Now is the time to save our natural plant heritage—before it’s too late. In Back to Eden, Frank Porter rediscovers the plants that once covered our landscapes and teaches us the secrets of how to propagate
and grow these botanical treasures. This book is for beginners, as well as the experienced.

Here you’ll:

-Learn how to establish a native plant garden.
-Read about the silent garden invaders.
-Discover how to make a rain garden.
-Grow your garden without fertilizer.
-Understand the importance of using native grasses and plants.
-The information in this book applies to states extending from Maine to Florida and east of the Mississippi River.

Many species are common throughout this vast area. Others are restricted to particular geographic regions. You will discover new plants to incorporate into your garden.

Tree-of-heaven, not so heavenly!


Photo credit : Paul Wray

Tree- of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), historically planted in urban landscapes and the inspiration for the title of the 1945 novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, is threatening many of Ohio’s native forests.  Originating from China and Taiwan, tree-of-heaven is often confused with our native sumacs.   However, it can be easily distinguished by its distinct foul odor. It also typically has much longer leaves (up to 6 feet) and attains a much larger size (3 feet in diameter) than our native sumacs. 

Seed pods

Seed pods
Photo credit: Karan Rawlins

Late fall and early winter is a perfect time to identify tree-of-heaven on your property because it holds on to its seed pods until after all the leaves of the trees have fallen off.

This non-native invasive plant is a very aggressive competitor.  The average female tree-of-heaven is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of seeds per year, and to make matters worse it aggressively sprouts when it is cut.  Its seeds can travel great distances in the wind making tree- of-heaven is very effective at becoming established along forest edges, in forest openings and especially in recently harvested woodlands.   Once it becomes established, it can rapidly spread and displace many native tree, shrub and herbaceous plant species.  If left unchecked, tree-of-heaven can negatively impact your forest’s ability to provide recreation, wildlife, timber and other benefits that you desire.

So what do you do if you think you’ve got tree-of heaven on your property?

  • If you’re not sure, collect a sample and get confirmation.  Your local Ohio State University Extension or Soil and Water Conservation District offices are a great place to start. 
  • Secondly, determine the extent of the infestation. You may want to seek assistance from your local Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Service Forester or a consulting forester.
  • Evaluate your treatment options!  Although it often requires follow up treatment, there are several herbicide treatment options available.  Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants in Ohio Forests: Ailanthus”, Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, F-65-09 provides a detailed description of many of the treatment options available to woodland owners.  
  • Keep informed!  A fungal wilt disease, which has been killing tree-of-heaven in Pennsylvania for nearly a decade, was recently found in Ohio providing hope for an effective biological control in the future.

For more information about tree-of-heaven and other non-native exotic plants contact Eric Boyda at 740-534-6578 or

Oriental Bittersweet is Bittersweet!

Fall has officially arrived! The forest is once again adorned in vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, and so are many of the local homes and businesses. In fact, many of the decorations used in these homes and businesses are made from plants that were collected from our forests, such as Oriental bittersweet.


photo – Leslie J. Mehrhoff

Oriental bittersweet was introduced to the United States, from Eastern Asia, in the mid-1800s as an ornamental plant. Its woody stems and persistent scarlet berries are an appealing addition to decorative, seasonal wreaths and ornamental floral arrangements. Despite its beauty, Oriental bittersweet can be quite beastly.

It is an aggressively growing vine that girdles and overtops surrounding vegetation. The weight ofmany vines can cause trees to fall, which can damage power lines, homes, and other trees.  It can also prevent forest regeneration after timber harvest and can become a pest in agricultural production.

Strangling vine. Photo – Chris Evans

The growth pattern of this plant drastically alters the landscape by out-competing other vegetation, thus limiting available food and habitat for wildlife.  If Oriental bittersweet is left untreated it will hurt the economy of our region by impacting the timber industry, agricultural production, and recreational opportunities. 

Oriental bittersweet is found in old home sites, fields, forest edges, hedgerows, open woodlands, along road edges and other disturbed sites. Birds are the principal long distance carriers of seeds. However, seeds are also widely spread by people through decorative use of these plants in floral arrangements and landscape plantings.

photo – James H. Miller

American bittersweet and Oriental bittersweet are known to hybridize in the wild and plants labeled as “American bittersweet” in commercial greenhouses are often mislabeled Oriental bittersweet. If you wish to add vines to your landscaping, rather than risk planting Oriental bittersweet, consider using native alternatives such as Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).

Visit this factsheet for more information on Oriental bittersweet control – oriental bittersweet factsheet.  For more information to help determine if you have American or oriental bittersweet,  refer to this factsheet. You can also contact Eric Boyda of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership by phone at 740-534-6578 or email at

Benefits of Cooperative Weed Management – guest blogger Kate Howe

Invasive species present a huge challenge to anyone who owns or manages land, whether it be a backyard garden, a small wood lot, a city park, or a national forest.  If you have ever spent time trying to reclaim a forest understory dominated by bush honeysuckle or pull garlic mustard sprouting up among native spring wildflowers, you have experienced first-hand the frustration of coming back year after year to treat the same species.  Even if you manage to get rid of every stem of a particular invasive plant on your property, you will still have to return year after year to monitor and treat new seedlings if your neighbor still has that invasive plant on an adjacent property.  Invasive plants don’t see property lines, and they will set up shop anywhere they can find an opening.  To be successful at ridding our gardens, parks, and natural areas of invasive plants, we need to deal with invasive plants on a larger scale, taking a coordinated approach to prevention and control across the entire landscape.

How can we ever hope to manage aggressive and persistent invasive plants across and entire landscape?  By cooperating with our neighbors.  Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMAs) (also known as Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs)) have sprung up across the country to try to address invasive plants at a scale that will be more effective for long-term management.  CWMAs bring together public and private landowners and land managers at a local level (often one or a few counties, watersheds, or ecoregions) to work together on solutions to their shared problems.  Some of the ways that CWMAs have improved invasive plant management are:

          Coordinating the timing of control efforts for a particular species across different properties for more effective control

          Creating shared priorities for invasive plant management so control efforts are more organized

          Pooling resources for outreach and management to enable the completion of larger projects

          Sharing information on new invaders in the area to improve early detection

          Reducing redundancy by creating a complementary approach to invasive plant activities, with each organization contributing time, money, supplies, services, volunteers, or information as they are able

CWMAs have had great successes in early detection, on-the-ground control, and raising awareness about invasive species in their areas.  Here are just a few of the things that CWMAs have been able to accomplish in the last few years.

          The Northwoods CWMA in Wisconsin got their local road department to alter roadside mowing and maintenance activities to prevent the spread of invasive plant seed by road department equipment.

          The River to River CWMA in Illinois created a Strike Team that treated 25 invasive plant species on over 1600 acres in the CWMA in 2011.  The Strike Team also found and treated 11 populations of new invaders, including kudzu, Japanese chaff flower, and burning bush.

          The Southern Indiana CWMA trained a team of volunteer Weed Watchers to identify and report new infestations of 18 priority plant species.

          The Hawkeye CWMA in Iowa holds an annual field day to educate the public about invasive plant identification and control.

          Several CWMAs have created community tool sheds with shared resources (e.g. backpack sprayers, loppers, shovels) for all partners to use.

          Many CWMAs have set up booths at local farmer’s markets, county fairs, or other events to provide brochures and answer questions about invasive plants for the general public.

Setting up a CWMA takes some time and some planning, but the payoff can be well worth the investment.  The Midwest Invasive Plant Network encourages local landowners and interested public in Appalachian Ohio to join the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership and help in their efforts. 

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network is an organization focused on reducing the impacts of invasive plant species in the Midwest.  Our goal is to improve the quality and quantity of information available on invasive plants to assist with education, prevention, early detection, and control.  Visit our website to see what we have to offer (  The Midwest Invasive Plant Network has created several educational materials on invasive plants that are available at low or no cost.  For more information on our publications, visit

If you don’t live within the boundaries of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership, check our map  to find a CWMA in your local region.  Still can’t find one? Consider working with others in your area to develop a new CWMA.  On our CWMA resources page (, you will find a step-by-step guide to starting a CWMA, called the “CWMA Cookbook”, as well as a companion PowerPoint slide show.  You will also see links to sample organizing documents for CWMAs and links to CWMA websites. 

Invasive plants are a daunting problem, but the Midwest Invasive Plant Network is here to help.  We hope you will consider starting or joining a local CWMA to help get the upper hand on invasive species in your area.