No one likes to have their space invaded, and that includes plants and wildlife. But there are quite a few invasive species in Indiana that can destroy the flowers, shrubs, trees, and grass you spend time and money tending. Beyond that, invasive species are damaging to the environment and the ecological communities that exist in our ecosystem—so much so that some invasive plants and wildlife can cause natives to become extinct.
To help protect your yard and the natural world around you, it’s important to know which plants are good for the local environment and which will wreak havoc and throw off the natural balance. We’ve gathered some of the most common and most dangerous invasive plants found in Indiana so you know their names, what they look like, and why they are such a threat.
This bright, vivid purple plant will stun you with its beauty, however, as lovely as it is, it’s equally damaging to the wetlands found in Indiana. Once it’s settled, purple loosestrife will take over, displacing all native plants found near wetland areas, creating a lack of diversity in nature and killing other species as it grows.
This strong perennial prefers wetter areas, but can also be found spreading throughout drier land, which can impact local farmland. To help your local landscape and prevent your yard from being taken over, make sure you steer clear of purple loosestrife and opt for safer, gentler purple flowers, such as lavender, allium bulbs, or butterfly bushes.
With its lovely, delicate flowers, Japanese Honeysuckle may seem gentle, but it’s actually a strong, seriously invasive plant. Originally used to help prevent erosion, this ornamental plant quickly proved it prevents weather damage, but also takes over everything in its path. Japanese Honeysuckle is a climbing vine with thick, wood-like trunks enabling it to effectively grow up trees, smothering other plants in its path.
If you’re looking for an ornamental plant to give your yard a classic feel, try English ivy, climbing hydrangeas, or regular honeysuckle.
This shrub, with its alluring dark green leaves and bright red berries, may be a plant you’d want in the corner of your yard, but it may be the only thing left once you plant it. Autumn olives are extremely dominant, outcompeting and displacing almost all other native plants around it. With nitrogen stabilization roots, this shrub is able to grow in any soil, even dry, nutrient-depleted ground.
Additionally, its seeding abilities are rapid and plentiful, which makes Autumn Olives able to destroy native plantlife as they grow. To get the diverse beauty of this dangerous shrub without the damage, try planting a purple smoke bush, spirea, or dogwood.
Unlike other invasive species, which were brought to the U.S. for a purpose or were mistaken to be safe for gardens, garlic mustard is an invasive weed. While we know it’s never intentional to have weeds sprouting throughout your yard, garlic mustard produces a high amount of seeds that can last for years within the soil, making them resilient and easily spreadable.
Beyond their ability to repopulate and spread, garlic mustard can live in full sun and full shade, which makes it a threat to many native plants which need specific conditions to thrive. This plant also moves quickly, from devouring disrupted land, as most weeds do, to invading healthy forestscapes and yards.
Keep your eyes peeled for weeds in your yard that have small, white blooms, are about two to three feet tall with kidney-shaped leaves. These are likely garlic mustard, and in time, they’ll take out what you’ve planted and take over your yard.
Many invasive species look like other native plants, which can make identifying them difficult. Additionally, there are many more invasive species found in Indiana. To learn more about which plants are harmful to the Midwest ecosystem, check out this in-depth list from Purdue University: https://www.entm.purdue.edu/iisc/pdf/IISC_Plant_List_by_group.pdf.