Growing strong

Maybe you can remember kudzu draped over Southern trees and hillsides, or the dire warnings about multiflora rose or gooseberry bushes, depending on where you grew up.

Scientists following the advance of kudzu are now aware of outbreaks as near to us as Brown County. Invasive plants continue to present us with surprising new developments, and this is just one example.

According to the Midwest Invasive Plants Network, an invasive plant is “not native and has negative effects on our economy, environment or human health …. The term “invasive” is reserved for the most aggressive plant species that grow and reproduce rapidly, causing major changes to the areas where they become established.”

Most of us know about kudzu or Johnsongrass or garlic mustard, even purple loosestrife, but the surprising new entries on the official lists of Midwestern invasives may be plants that we have planted ourselves and maybe not that long ago.

Recent experience has shown that even such familiar favorites as periwinkle (Vinca minor), burning bush (Euonymous alatus) and Miscanthus grass can invade woodlands or open areas in ways that exclude the native plants and disrupt the services provided by that ecosystem. The natural features of the environment also become degraded as a result, which can reduce property values.

Here is the current status of 10 invasives we once welcomed into yards and gardens, according to the Indiana Invasive Species Council:

Norway maple (Acer platanoides): Legal, but highly invasive.

Japanese barberry (Berberis japonica): Legal, but highly invasive.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): Legal, but highly invasive, along with several other bush honeysuckle species.

English ivy (Hedera helix): Moderately invasive. Climbs trees and structures; colonizes some forest understory.

Purple winter-creeper (Euonymous fortunei): Once a common groundcover. Legal, but highly invasive.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria): Illegal to buy, sell or plant; invades shallow shorelines and wetlands; once a popular perennial.

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana): Legal, but highly invasive. Has colonized open fields near Columbus.

Burning bush (Euonymous alatus): Moderately invasive. Invades woodlands. Seedless cultivars are under development.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor): Moderately invasive. Has colonized understory of many southern Indiana woodlands.

Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare): Caution advised; along with several other privet species, it seeds itself.

For more information on invasive plants, and what you can do about them, go online at or

For more on what you can plant instead, contact Bartholomew County’s Purdue Extension office. It’s most helpful if you know something about your growing conditions as well as what function you want your plants to serve in your landscape.